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U.S. Senate Votes Overwhelmingly To Advance New Russia Sanctions

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had urged lawmakers not to restrict the White House's ability to negotiate with Russia, but the Senate moved closer to cementing existing sanctions against Moscow and imposing new ones. (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate has voted overwhelmingly to cement existing economic sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, and impose new ones in response to Moscow's alleged meddling in last year's election campaign.

The sanctions bill, which was an amendment to other legislation targeting Iran for sanctions, passed the upper chamber of Congress by 97-2.

Ahead of the June 14 vote, the measure had been met with warnings of retaliation from Moscow, as well as pleas for patience from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But the amendment had strong bipartisan support, reflecting the growing consensus in Washington that Russia had to be punished for allegedly meddling in the 2016 election, its actions in Ukraine, and other areas.

The overall sanctions legislation must now be voted on by the Senate, which could come as early as June 15.

The bill would then go to the House of Representatives, where support for punitive actions against Russia is less strong. The Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has signaled backing for it, however.

The amendment would turn into law existing sanctions over Moscow's aggression in Ukraine, making it harder for President Donald Trump to lift them unilaterally.

They would also hit Russians accused of human rights abuses, and sanction Russian mining, metals, shipping, and railways companies, thus going beyond the energy and financial firms previously targeted.