The U.S. House passed a bill that would authorize a range of sanctions against Russian officials while extending $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine’s fledgling government.
The measure House lawmakers cleared 378-34 yesterday goes to President Barack Obama to be signed into law. The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote on March 27.
In addition to the loan guarantees, H.R. 4152 authorizes $150 million in direct assistance to Ukraine. It imposes sanctions against Russians and Ukrainians deemed responsible for corruption and violence.
The White House welcomed the vote, spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. He said the sanctions would “impose costs on individuals and entities who are responsible for acts of violence against the Ukrainian people or are undermining Ukraine’s peace, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity.”
The measure will “stand up to Russian aggression” by expanding sanctions that can be imposed on Russian officials and sending a “message of more energy independence for Ukraine,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican.
The conflict over Crimea marks Russia’s most significant standoff with the U.S. and the European Union since the Cold War ended. Russian President Vladimir Putin has justified the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine as righting a wrong that split the peninsula from Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed.
The U.S. has previously issued sanctions to business leaders and government officials with ties to Putin, as well as a bank. Last month, Obama targeted seven Russian officials and four people from Ukraine, and then blocked travel and froze the assets of 20 more Russians and Bank Rossiya.
The sanctions against Russian officials and their close associates or family members may include blocking access to assets they hold in the U.S. and prohibiting travel to the U.S.
The bill “sends a very clear message that the United States will not tolerate the Russian incursion into Ukraine,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican. “This bill will provide some stability for Ukraine throughout this tumultuous time.”
Lawmakers in the Republican-led House also passed a bill yesterday that would increase funding to international broadcasting stations such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America in Ukraine and Crimea.
The measure, S. 2183, passed unanimously by the Senate last week, would boost radio and television in local languages. It’s designed to offset Crimean TV stations that, according to the bill’s text, have been switched over to “a 24/7 Russian propaganda format.”
Russian propaganda is “really in overdrive,” Royce said. The bill “puts us on the offensive in the information battle.”
The House’s first vote to pass a Ukraine aid plan was on March 6, as Crimea’s parliament scheduled a referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
The measure stalled in the Senate over Republican objections to Democrats’ proposal to make changes to the International Monetary Fund. The Senate passed the measure last week after Democrats dropped their demands to include the IMF provision.
While U.S. lawmakers debated and then took a week-long mid-March break, residents of Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation, and Putin’s government completed the annexation.
U.S. lawmakers have more options should the measure not help dissuade Putin from moving further into Ukraine. House lawmakers last week passed a separate bill that includes additional sanctions that Royce said won’t proceed for now though could be revived to stem future Russian aggression.