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Russia Condemns U.S. Congress Over New Sanctions Bill

Russian minister warns U.S. lawmakers could destroy the prospects of normalized relations with Russia. The U.S. House bill must still be approved by the Senate before heading to President Trump's desk.

 

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russia responded angrily Wednesday to a US congressional vote to impose new sanctions, saying they risked worsening the already poor relations between the two countries.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned that "the authors and sponsors of this legislation are taking a serious step towards the destruction of prospects for normalizing relations with Russia," according to state news agency Tass.

The European Union also expressed concern, saying it would act "within days" if its concerns over the supply of Russian energy to Europe were not addressed.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bill which calls for new sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran, and limits any effort by the White House to weaken such penalties.

If it clears a vote in the US Senate, the bill then heads to the desk of US President Donald Trump. It is not clear if that will happen before Congress breaks for summer recess at the end of the month.

Trump has not indicated whether he will sign the bill, which also gives Congress a way to block any easing of new sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran, as well as older ones against Russia.

The House action came hours after Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law and senior adviser, was interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee about the 2016 campaign and allegations that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian officials to help defeat his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump's presidency has been dogged by questions his campaign's ties with Russia and the promise to improve relations with Moscow. The Trump administration and the Russian government have consistently denied collusion.

Lawmaker: Russia must react

Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev posted on his Facebook page that Russia should "prepare a reaction, because there must be one" to the sanctions bill.

Kosachev added that Russia should "take into account the fact that dialogue with the current anti-Russian consensus in Congress (yesterday's vote was 419 to 3!) will not work. It will be this way for a long time. And President Trump cannot cope with his Congress."

Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, said what was happening in the United States "does not fit the framework of common sense" but insisted Russia was "not succumbing to emotions" in its response.

"We will work to find ways to move forward, persistently, consistently looking for ways of searching for compromise on issues, which are significant for Russia and, I think, for the US," he said. "The fight against terrorism and the proliferation of WMD. We are ready for this cooperation."

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said his country would respond to the US new sanctions, according to Iranian state broadcaster IRIB.

"The US is continuing hostility towards Iran and Iran will definitely respond to US sanctions," Rouhani reportedly said during a cabinet meeting Wednesday. He did not say how Tehran would respond.

EU frustration

The European Union expressed frustration that it had not been consulted over the new proposals. "New sanctions should always be coordinated between allies," EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement.

He said the bill could have "unintended unilateral effects" on the EU's energy security. EU officials worry that the sanctions could hit Nord Stream 2, a controversial pipeline that would carry natural gas from Russia to Germany. The project, intended to plug Europe's energy gap, is part-financed by European companies.

"This is why the Commission concluded today that if our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days," Juncker said. "America first cannot mean that Europe's interests come last."

The EU and the US imposed coordinated sanctions in 2014 over Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. President Barack Obama imposed further sanctions in late 2016 over alleged interference in the 2016 US election. Sanctions were also imposed under the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which targets Russians whom the US considers human rights abusers.

The latest set of sanctions against Russia are intended to penalize its alleged election meddling, as well as its human rights violations, annexation of Crimea and military operations in eastern Ukraine.

The White House has been sending mixed messages about whether it will support the bill, which represents a challenge to the President's authority.

"While the President supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the President's desk," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday.

However, aides and members of Congress from both parties say that if Trump does decide to veto it, there will be sufficient votes to override the veto and enact the bill into law.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly ridiculed the sanctions and called on countries, particularly the United States, to drop them.

Moscow rejects claims it interfered in the US election process, insists its annexation of Crimea was legal and denies direct involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

(Photo by CNN Newsource)

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