Congress Approves Sanctions on Russia, Aid to Ukraine
The United States Congress on Tuesday easily passed an aid package for Ukraine that includes sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea, AFP reports.
The House of Representatives voted 378 to 34 to approve the bill, which the Senate green-lighted last week, meaning the bill, including $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
"The U.S. House and Senate stand together in backing the Ukrainian people during this hour of need," House Speaker John Boehner said immediately after the vote, promising to monitor Obama's actions.
"We'll now continue our efforts to ensure he utilizes every tool at his disposal – including re-evaluating security assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies and expanding America's vast energy supplies –- to undermine Russia's stranglehold on Europe," he added.
Obama welcomed the passage of a bill that will provide Ukraine with "essential steps to restore economic stability and return to growth and prosperity," White House spokesman Jay Carney said, according to AFP.
Carney added that the administration also "supports the targeted sanctions authority provided in the bill to impose costs on individuals and entities who are responsible for acts of violence against the Ukrainian people or are undermining Ukraine’s peace, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity."
The move comes less than a week after Obama promised to increase Russia’s isolation in response to its annexation of Crimea.
The new legislation provides for $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine as well as $150 million for improved governance and enhanced security cooperation there.
It penalizes individuals linked to Russia's annexation of Crimea and the deadly crackdown on protesters in Kiev by Ukraine's ousted pro-Russian regime, and gives Obama flexibility in imposing sanctions.
The United States and the EU have already responded to Russia’s actions by imposing personal sanctions against Russian and Crimean officials involved in the seizure of the peninsula.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has remained unfazed by EU and U.S. economic sanctions, and has responded by drafting his own sanctions on top American senators.
Obama has come under fire from Republicans over his foreign policy which, they say, encouraged Putin to annex Crimea.