US senators vote overwhelmingly for new sanctions on Russia

The US Senate has voted almost unanimously to slap new sanctions on Russia, putting President Donald Trump in a tough position by forcing him to take a hard line on Moscow or veto the legislation and infuriate his own party.

The vote on Thursday all but dashes Trump’s hopes for warmer ties with Moscow as his administration is dogged by congressional and special counsel investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election to sway it in Mr Trump’s favour.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly denied the conclusions of US intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered using cyber warfare methods, has threatened retaliation against the legislation.

The Senate backed the bill, which also imposes sanctions on Iran and North Korea, by a margin of 98-2 with strong support from Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.

The bill, which includes a provision that allows Congress to stop any effort by Mr Trump to ease existing sanctions on Russia, will now be sent to the White House for Mr Trump to sign into law or veto.

It is the first major foreign policy legislation approved by Congress under Mr Trump, who has struggled to advance his domestic agenda despite Republicans controlling the Senate and House of Representatives. The strong bipartisan support for the bill was a sharp contrast to the bitter partisan rancour during debate over how to overhaul the US healthcare system.

If Mr 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 sanctions measure has already passed the House of Representatives by 419 to 3 votes.

Republicans and Democrats have pushed for more sanctions partly as a response to the election allegations. Mr Trump denies any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

Senator John McCain, a leading congressional voice calling for a firm line against Russia, said before the vote: “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.”

Mr Putin 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 industries and might further hurt the Russian economy, already weakened by 2014 sanctions imposed after Russia annexed Crime from Ukraine.

Besides angering Moscow, the legislation has upset the European Union, which has said the new sanctions might affect its energy security and prompt it to act, too.

World news in pictures

World news in pictures

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    Australian police officers participate in a training scenario called an ‘Armed Offender/Emergency Exercise’ held at an international passenger terminal located on Sydney Harbour

    Reuters/David Gray

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    North Korean soldiers watch the south side as the United Nations Command officials visit after a commemorative ceremony for the 64th anniversary of the Korean armistice at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas

    Reuters/Jung Yeon-Je

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    Bangladeshi commuters use a rickshaw to cross a flooded street amid heavy rainfall in Dhaka. Bangladesh is experiencing downpours following a depression forming in the Bay of Bengal.

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    The Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft for the next International Space Station (ISS) crew of Paolo Nespoli of Italy, Sergey Ryazanskiy of Russia, and Randy Bresnik of the U.S., is transported from an assembling hangar to the launchpad ahead of its upcoming launch, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan

    Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

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    A protester shouts at U.S. President Donald Trump as he is removed from his rally with supporters in an arena in Youngstown, Ohio

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    Indian supporters of Gorkhaland chant slogans tied with chains during a protest march in capital New Delhi. Eastern India’s hill resort of Darjeeling has been rattled at the height of tourist season after violent clashes broke out between police and hundreds of protesters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) – a long-simmering separatist movement that has long called for a separate state for ethnic Gorkhas in West Bengal. The GJM wants a new, separate state of “Gorkhaland” carved out of eastern West Bengal state, of which Darjeeling is a part.

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    Demonstrators clash with riot security forces while rallying against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela. The banner on the bridge reads “It will be worth it”

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    The Heathcote river as it rises to high levels in Christchurch, New Zealand. Heavy rain across the South Island in the last 24 hours has caused widespread damage and flooding with Dunedin, Waitaki, Timaru and the wider Otago region declaring a state of emergency.

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    A mourner prays at a memorial during an event to commemorate the first anniversary of the shooting spree that one year ago left ten people dead, including the shooter in Munich, Germany. One year ago 18-year-old student David S. shot nine people dead and injured four others at and near a McDonalds restaurant and the Olympia Einkaufszentrum shopping center. After a city-wide manhunt that caused mass panic and injuries David S. shot himself in a park. According to police David S., who had dual German and Iranian citizenship, had a history of mental troubles.

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    Palestinians react following tear gas that was shot by Israeli forces after Friday prayer on a street outside Jerusalem’s Old City

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    Ousted former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra greets supporters as she arrives at the Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand

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    Marek Suski of Law and Justice (PiS) (C) party scuffles with Miroslaw Suchon (2nd L) of Modern party (.Nowoczesna) as Michal Szczerba of Civic Platform (PO) (L) party holds up a copy of the Polish Constitution during the parliamentary Commission on Justice and Human Rights voting on the opposition’s amendments to the bill that calls for an overhaul of the Supreme Court in Warsaw

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    Michael Lindell ,CEO of My Pillow reacts as U.S. President Donald Trump attends a Made in America roundtable meeting in the East Room of the White House

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    17th FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Team North Korea practice under coach supervision

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    IAAF World ParaAthletics Championships – London, Britain – July 17, 2017

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    Russia Kamaz’s driver Dmitry Sotnikov, co-drivers Ruslan Akhmadeev and Ilnur Mustafin compete during the Stage 9 of the Silk Way 2017 between Urumqi and Hami, China

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    Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull talks with Special Operations Command soldiers during a visit to the Australian Army’s Holsworthy Barracks in western Sydney

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    Men in traditional sailor costumes celebrate after carrying a statue of the El Carmen Virgin, who is worshipped as the patron saint of sailors, into the Mediterranean Sea during a procession in Torremolinos, near Malaga, Spain

    Reuters/Jon Nazca

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    People participate in a protest in front of the Sejm building (the lower house of the Polish parliament) in Warsaw, Poland. The demonstration was organized by Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD). Members and supporters of the KOD and opposition parties protested against changes in the judicial law and the Supreme Court

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    People prepare to swim with a portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong on the bank of the Yangtze River in Yichang, Hubei province, China to celebrate the 51st anniversary of Chairman Mao swimming in the Yangtze River.

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    A woman takes a selfie picture with her mobile phone next to the statue of Omer Halisdemir in Istanbul, in front of a memorial with the names of people killed last year during the failed coup attempt .

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    French President Emmanuel Macron gestures next to US President Donald Trump during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris.

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    Philippine National Police chief Ronald Bato Dela Rosa holds an M60 machine gun during a Gun and Ammunition show at a mall in Mandaluyong city, metro Manila, Philippines

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    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker embrace before the EU-Ukraine summit in Kiev, Ukraine

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    US President Donald Trump (R) and First Lady Melania Trump disembark form Air Force One upon arrival at Paris Orly airport on July 13, 2017, beginning a 24-hour trip that coincides with France’s national day and the 100th anniversary of US involvement in World War I

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    Iraqis walk on a damaged street in west Mosul a few days after the government’s announcement of the liberation of the embattled city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters

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    Iraqi boys wash a vehicle in west Mosul a few days after the government’s announcement of the liberation of the embattled city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters

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    Afghan policeman pour fuel over jerry cans containing confiscated acetic acid before setting it alight on the outskirts of Herat. Some 15,000 liters of acetic acid, often mixed with heroin, were destroyed by counter narcotics police

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    Reuters/Ajay Verma

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    Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the 22nd World Petroleum Congress (WPC) in Istanbul

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    Police from the anti-terror squad participate in an anti-terror performance among Acehnese dancers during a ceremony to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Indonesian police corps in Banda Aceh

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    New Mongolia’s president Khaltmaa Battulga takes an oath during his inauguration ceremony in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

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    US army 1st Division, US air force, US Navy and US Marines, march down the Champs Elysees, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background, in Paris during a rehearsal of the annual Bastille Day military parade

    AFP

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    Participants run ahead of Puerto de San Lorenzo’s fighting bulls during the third bull run of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain. Each day at 8:00 am hundreds of people race with six bulls, charging along a winding, 848.6-metre (more than half a mile) course through narrow streets to the city’s bull ring, where the animals are killed in a bullfight or corrida, during this festival, immortalised in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” and dating back to medieval times and also featuring religious processions, folk dancing, concerts and round-the-clock drinking.

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    Iraqi women, who fled the fighting between government forces and Islamic State (IS) group jihadists in the Old City of Mosul, cry as they stand in the city’s western industrial district awaiting to be relocated

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    US President Donald Trump arrives for another working session during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany

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    People climb up on a roof to get a view during riots in Hamburg, northern Germany, where leaders of the world’s top economies gather for a G20 summit

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    Donald Trump arrives to deliver a speech at Krasinski Square in Warsaw, Poland.

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    A firefighter conducts rescue operations in an area damaged by heavy rain in Asakura, Japan.

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    Anti-capitalism activists protest in Hamburg, where leaders of the world’s top economies will gather for a G20 summit.

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    Crowds gather for the start of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain.

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    A member of the Iraqi security forces runs with his weapon during a fight between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq.

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    A U.S. MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile is fired during the combined military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea against North Korea at an undisclosed location in South Korea

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    North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un looks on during the test-fire of inter-continental ballistic missile Hwasong-14

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony following the talks at the Kremlin

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    Belarussian servicemen march during a military parade as part of celebrations marking the Independence Day in Minsk, Belarus

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    Protesters demonstrating against the upcoming G20 economic summit ride boats on Inner Alster lake during a protest march in Hamburg, Germany. Hamburg will host the upcoming G20 summit and is expecting heavy protests throughout.

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    Protesters carry a large image of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo as they march during the annual pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong. Thousands joined an annual protest march in Hong Kong, hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up his visit to the city by warning against challenges to Beijing’s sovereignty.

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    A man takes pictures with a phone with a Union Flag casing after Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) inspected troops at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison as part of events marking the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong, China June 30, 2017

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    A Libyan coast guardsman watches over as illegal immigrants arrive to land in a dinghy during the rescue of 147 people who attempted to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the capital Tripoli, on June 27, 2017. More than 8,000 migrants have been rescued in waters off Libya during the past 48 hours in difficult weather conditions, Italy’s coastguard said on June 27, 2017

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    Investigators work at the scene of a car bomb explosion which killed Maxim Shapoval, a high-ranking official involved in military intelligence, in Kiev, Ukraine, June 27, 2017

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    Pakistan army soldiers stands guard while rescue workers examine the site of an oil tanker explosion at a highway near Bahawalpur, Pakistan. An overturned oil tanker burst into flames in Pakistan on Sunday, killing more than one hundred people who had rushed to the scene of the highway accident to gather leaking fuel, an official said.

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    Student activists shout anti martial law slogans during a protest in Manila on June 23, 2017

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    Poland’s Piotr Lobodzinski starts in front of the Messeturm, Fairground Tower, in Frankfurt Germany. More than 1,000 runners climbed the 1202 stairs, and 222 meters of height in the Frankfurt Messeturm skyscraper run

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    A runner lies on the ground after arriving at the finish line in Frankfurt Germany. More than 1,000 runners climbed the 1202 stairs, and 222 meters of height in the Frankfurt Messeturm skyscraper run

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    A troupe of Ukrainian dancers perform at Boryspil airport in Kiev, on the first day of visa-free travel for Ukrainian nationals to the European Union

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    A troupe of Ukrainian dancers perform on the tarmac at Boryspil airport in Kiev, on the first day of visa-free travel for Ukrainian nationals to the European Union

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    French President Emmanuel Macron with his wife Brigitte Trogneux cast their ballot at their polling station in the first round of the French legislatives elections in Le Touquet, northern France

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    A Thai worker paints on a large statue of the Goddess of Mercy, known as Guan Yin at a Chinese temple in Ratchaburi province, Thailand. Guan Yin is one of the most popular and well known Chinese Goddess in Asia and in the world. Guan Yin is the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion in Mahayana Buddhism and also worshiped by Taoists

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    Usain Bolt of Jamaica salutes the crowd after winning 100m ‘Salute to a Legend’ race during the Racers Grand Prix at the national stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. Bolt partied with his devoted fans in an emotional farewell at the National Stadium on June 10 as he ran his final race on Jamaican soil. Bolt is retiring in August following the London World Championships

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    Police officers investigate at the Amsterdam Centraal station in Amsterdam, Netherlands. A car ploughed into pedestrians and injured at least five people outside the station. The background of the incident was not immediately known, though police state they have ‘no indication whatsoever’ the incident was an attack

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    Smoke billows following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa

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    Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures next to Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto during a welcome ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico

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    Former FBI director James Comey is sworn in during a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC

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    Former FBI Director James Comey testifies during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC

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    A woman reacts at the place where 17-year-old demonstrator Neomar Lander died during riots at a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 8, 2017. The sign reads: ‘Neomar, entertainer for ever’

    REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

The legislation also cracks down on Iran and North Korea for activities including their missile development programmes and human rights abuses, including seeking to punish foreign banks that do business with North Korea.

It also imposes restrictions on anyone involved in Iran’€™s ballistic missile program and those who do business with them. The sanctions also apply to Iran’€™s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps security force and major economic force.

Earlier on Thursday, a senior White House aide said Mr Trump could veto the pending legislation in order to push for a tougher deal, an idea that drew skepticism in Congress because his administration had spent weeks lobbying for a weaker bill.

“He may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians,” White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci told CNN.

Earlier on Thursday, Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters: “I would guess that he will sign it.”

Watergate prosecutor: Everything Trump does ‘cries out guilt’

The White House said it would comment on the sanctions bill when they get it and have a chance to review it. It was not immediately clear when it would land on Mr Trump’s desk.

On Thursday before the Senate vote, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the Trump administration continues to support strong sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran, adding “we’re going to wait and see what that final legislation looks like and make a decision at that point.”

Mr Trump can impose new sanctions at any time through an executive order.

“This bill doesn’€™t preclude him from issuing tougher sanctions. That doesn’€™t make any sense,” said Edward Fishman, a former State Department official during the Obama administration who worked on US sanctions policy.

Once Mr Trump receives the bill, if he does not sign it, he has 10 days, excluding Sundays, before he must issue a veto and prevent the bill from becoming law automatically.

If he opts for a veto, the bill can become law anyway if two-thirds of both the House and Senate vote for an override.

Mr Putin said on a visit to Finland on Thursday that Russia was “exercising restraint and patience, but at some moment we’ll have to retaliate. It’s impossible to endlessly tolerate this boorishness towards our country.”

Mr Putin, at a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, also spoke about Mr Obama’s order last December to seize Russian diplomatic property in the United States and to expel 35 Russian diplomats.

“This goes beyond all reasonable bounds,” Mr Putin said. “And now these sanctions – they are also absolutely unlawful from the point of view of international law.”

Reuters

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