Senate approves new Russian Federation sanctions

President Vladimir Putin said that a U.S. Senate move to increase sanctions against Moscow came "out of the blue" and were meant to "restrain Russian Federation".

A frequently polarized Senate found common ground Thursday as Republicans and Democrats joined forces to approve a sweeping sanctions bill that punishes longtime adversaries Iran and Russian Federation with an array of financial penalties.

In a move that could complicate U.S. President Donald Trump's desire for warmer relations with Moscow, the Senate backed the measure by 98-2.

Setting up a potential confrontation with President Trump, the Senate overwhelmingly approved tougher Russian sanctions Thursday as Congress begins to reassert the legislative branch's check on the White House.

In a rare moment of bipartisan unity, the Senate voted 97 to two to approve the sanctions, with only Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky voting against.

While Donald Trump seems determined to make America best friends with Russian Federation - handing over top secret intelligence and trying to lift sanctions against the country - a almost united Senate is standing in his way.

The Russia sanctions amendment was added to an Iranian sanctions bill on the Senate floor after a deal was struck earlier this week between the Republican and Democratic heads of the Senate Foreign Relations and Banking Committees.

In a joint statement, Austria's Chancellor Christian Kern and Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel cited a section of the sanctions bill that calls for the United States to continue to oppose the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would pump Russian gas to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea.

To become law, the legislation must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.

The bill also includes new sanctions on Iran that are not related to the worldwide nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers. This legislation is a first for congressional Republicans, as it wasn't initiated by the Trump administration.

The bill comes up for a final vote at the end of July, before lawmakers leave Washington for their summer recess.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson questioned the legislation on Wednesday, urging Congress to ensure that any sanctions package "allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation". They blocked US companies such as Exxon Mobil, where Tillerson was chairman, from investing in such projects.

The new sanctions include additional punitive measures against Russia's defense, intelligence, mining, shipping and railway industries and restrict dealings with the country's banks and energy companies, Sputnik reported.

  • Larry Hoffman