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US Senate approves trade, energy measures to punish Russia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A bird flies by the United States Capitol building in Washington, US, March 17, 2022. (Reuters photo)

The US Senate has voted unanimously to remove the "most favored nation" trade status for Russia and its close ally Belarus in one bill and ban oil imports from there, ratcheting up Washington’s offensive against Moscow over the military campaign in Ukraine.

The Senate on Thursday voted 100-0 in favor of the measure removing Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status, accosting to Reuters.

Shortly after passing this measure, the Senate passed the energy bill, also by a 100-0 tally.

The two bills were then sent to the House of Representatives, where they are likely to be passed later on Thursday. US President Joe Biden will sign the bills into law.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has also said it will impose new sanctions on Russia this week that including a ban on new investments and sanctions on Russian government officials and their family members.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the sanctions were being coordinated with the Group of Seven and the European Union.

She said that the sanctions will also target Russian-owned financial institutions and state-owned enterprises.

She said that the sanctions are in response to Russia’s recent atrocities in Bucha, a town near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, and other acts of violence in Ukraine.

Western countries have slapped unprecedented sanctions on Russia since President Vladimir Putin declared a military offensive against Ukraine on February 24.

The new measures were proposed after Ukrainian troops began showing journalists corpses of what they say are civilians killed by Russian forces in Bucha and other towns near Kiev.

Von der Leyen accused Moscow of “waging a cruel, ruthless war, also against Ukraine's civilian population,” saying that the bloc needed “to sustain utmost pressure at this critical point.”

Russia denied any civilian killings, saying that the images were fakes produced by Ukrainian forces or that the deaths occurred after Russian soldiers pulled out of the areas.

"It is a simply a well-directed but tragic show," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "It is a forgery aimed at denigrating the Russian army.  And it will not work."

He also said that the Kremlin urged "the international community: detach yourself from such emotional perceptions and think with your head. Compare the facts and understand what a monstrous forgery we are dealing with."

The Biden administration has imposed harsh economic and banking sanctions on Russia in response to Russia's military actions in Ukraine.

Biden said the sanctions would limit Russia's ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen.

The US president claimed that the only other alternative to the sanctions would be to start a “Third World War.”

President Putin said earlier this month that Western sanctions on Russia were akin to a declaration of war.



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