Senate slaps new sanctions on Russia; Putin vows retaliation

WASHINGTON/SAVONLINNA, Finland (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate voted nearly unanimously on Thursday to slap new sanctions on Russia despite President Donald Trump’s objections to the legislation, which has angered Russian President Vladimir Putin who threatened to retaliate.

The Senate backed the measure, which also imposes sanctions on Iran and North Korea, by a margin of 98-2 with strong support from Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats. The bill will now be sent to the White House for Trump to sign into law or veto.

The bill is the first major foreign policy legislation approved by Congress under Trump, who has struggled to advance his domestic agenda despite Republicans controlling the Senate and House of Representatives.

If Trump chooses to veto it, the bill is expected to garner enough support in both chambers to override his veto and pass it into law.

The bill threatens to further derail U.S.-Russian relations, which deteriorated under former President Barack Obama. Trump had hoped to improve ties but his administration has been clouded by investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Trump. The president denies any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

The sanctions measure has already passed the House of Representatives by a 419-3.

Republicans and Democrats have pushed for more sanctions partly as a response to conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that the Kremlin interfered in the election.

Speaking just before the Senate passed the bill, Republican Senator John McCain, a leading congressional voice calling for a firm line against Russia said: “The United States of America needs to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and any other aggressor that we will not tolerate attacks on our democracy.”

Putin, who has repeatedly denied meddling in the campaign said Moscow would only decide on how to retaliate once it had seen the final text of the proposed law.

The bill would affect a range of Russian…

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