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Senate committee OKs bill to sanction Russia over Ukraine

March 12, 2014 at 5:22 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would offer aid to Ukraine and sanction Russia for its incursion into Crimea.

"We need to stand with the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny without Russian interference," Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said.

Four Republicans Senators -- Bob Corker of Tennessee, the panel's ranking member, John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin backed the bill, passed on a , on a 14-3 vote, the Hill reported.

"I believe we are at a defining moment right now," said Corker, who negotiated the final draft. "Our friends and allies in the region are watching."

The bill would freeze assets and deny visas to people involved in Russian military intervention in Ukraine's autonomous, pro-Russia Crimea Region. Crimea's Parliament scheduled a referendum Sunday on whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

The draft contains three categories of targets: those involved in suppressing Ukrainian protests, those involved in "significant" corruption and those involved in violating the "territorial integrity" of Ukraine.

Under the bill, President Obama would have the authority to determine who specifically would be subject to the sanctions, the Hill said. It also gives Obama the right to waive sanctions if it is in the national interest to do so.

The bill also has language that would provide aid to Ukraine and a controversial provision that would reallocate U.S. contributions to the International Monetary Fund and approve 2010 reforms proposed at the IMF, something not in the bill passed by the House.

To pay for the new spending, the bill cancels $157 million in spending in Air Force, Army and missile defense procurement funds currently appropriated. Another $157 million are canceled out of State Department development assistance accounts and from the Export-Import Bank.

The Hill said it would be difficult for Congress to complete its work on the bill before lawmakers recess on Friday since legislation passed by the House does not include IMF funding and conservatives in the Senate are unlikely to agree to move the bill forward by unanimous consent.

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