Putin warns new sanctions will 'complicate' ties between Russia and US

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The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday for legislation imposing new sanctions on Iran and Russian Federation, and setting up a mechanism to force President Donald Trump to get Congress' approval before easing any existing sanctions.

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill Wednesday to keep and expand sanctions against Russian Federation and to block the president from lifting them without congressional approval.

The measure is widely seen as a rebuke to Trump, as it hits Russian Federation with new sanctions to punish Moscow for its interference in United States elections, as well as over Moscow's aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

Besides financial penalties, the new sanctions would also target those involved in "malicious cyber activity", those who give weapons to Assad's government and operatives who work with Russian intelligence.

Trump was especially effusive about Russian president Vladimir Putin during the 2016 United States election campaign, though his openness to closer ties to Moscow has tempered somewhat, with his administration on the defensive over investigations into Russian meddling in the election. The bill includes a mechanism requiring congressional review of any decision to ease the Russian Federation sanctions.

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The legislation, authored by Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., does not affect the current nuclear agreement with Iran - an agreement that Wicker has condemned. The libertarian-minded Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was the only other "no" vote against the bill. "This amendment makes clear that we will not continue to tolerate such actions, and I am glad we are one step closer to passage of our legislation to hold Iran accountable".

The US Senate on Thursday overwhelming approved fresh sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile programme and on Russian Federation for its actions in Ukraine and Syria.

However, Sen. Robert Menendez was skeptical, telling Politico, "I just cannot fathom how House Republicans could ultimately, with everything that's going on with Russia's nefarious actions, try to either deep-six the bill or dramatically change it". Those penalties were on top of existing US sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine, which have damaged Russia's economy but had only limited impact on Putin's behavior.

The Republican-led Senate unanimously approved a measure emphasizing the importance of NATO's mutual defense pact, a not-so-subtle dig at President Donald Trump. Before passing the combined Russia-Iran measure, the chamber also attached a bipartisan amendment signaling support for NATO's Article 5 - which Trump earlier this month notably declined to endorse in Brussels - by a unanimous vote. The White House has not yet released a statement on the president's reaction to the sanctions bill.

Still, Corker and other Republicans said they expect Trump to sign the bill if it's passed by the House.

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