Thu, Apr 03, 2014 - Page 7 News List

US Congress passes assistance package for Ukraine

Reuters, WASHINGTON

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly for a package of aid and sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and sent the measure to the White House for US President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The House voted 378-34 in favor of a package that was also overwhelmingly approved by the US Senate last week — a rare instance of bipartisanship after weeks of haggling between Democrats and Republicans over how best to respond to the crisis.

The legislation backs a US$1 billion loan guarantee for Kiev, provides US$150 million in aid to the Ukraine and surrounding countries and requires the US Departments of State and Justice to help the Ukrainian government recover assets amassed by corrupt officials.

It also imposes mandatory sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, against Russians and Ukrainians determined to have engaged in violence or human rights abuses in Ukraine, who undermined the country’s sovereignty or participated in “significant” corruption there.

“This legislation is central to our effort to counter Russian aggression and support the democratic development of Ukraine,” said US Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The measure does not include IMF reforms sought by the White House and resisted by many Republicans in a dispute that had delayed the bill, frustrating lawmakers who wanted a swift response to the crisis in Crimea.

With many Republicans saying the IMF reforms were unrelated to helping Ukraine, Senate Democrats agreed to drop them from the legislation last week so it would pass quickly.

The White House said Obama welcomed the US Congress’ finalization of an assistance package.

In a statement, it also reiterated the Obama administration’s support for the fund’s measures “to ensure the IMF has the resources it needs to fulfill its mission and expand the tools available for Ukraine and other countries.”

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