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The United States Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to punish Russia over its alleged election meddling, passing a bill that would bar President Donald Trump from unilaterally easing existing sanctions on Moscow.

The bill passed by a vote of 97-2, reported AFP.

The proposal was included in an amendment that must still win definitive approval from the Senate and from the House of Representatives. It would make congressional approval necessary if Trump seeks to suspend or ease sanctions imposed on Russia over its apparent cyberattacks during the 2016 U.S. election campaign.

This new bill would also give sanctions imposed by then-President Barack Obama via an executive order the full force of law. The sanctions target the Russian energy industry in particular.

The legislation would impose new sanctions against "corrupt Russian actors," "those involved in serious human rights abuses", Russians providing arms to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's regime or those engaged in cyberattacks on behalf of the government, according to AFP.

The sanctions have been added to a bill aimed at toughening sanctions against Iran for what the bill calls its support of international terrorist acts.

Several more votes on the bill are scheduled in the Senate in the coming days before it can go to the House of Representatives.

Russia is suspected of having hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Clinton claims Russia’s cyber attacks against her campaign and the Democratic National Committee played a role in her losing the election to Trump.

There have also been suggestions that members of the Trump campaign were directly involved with Russian officials.

While Trump himself has accepted intelligence reports concluding that Russia engaged in cyber attacks during the November presidential election, he has repeatedly lambasted as “fake news” any suggestion that he or his staff had connections to Russia.

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