U.S. House backs Ukraine aid, sanctions

Reuters

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to provide aid to Ukraine, back a $1 billion loan guarantee for the Kiev government and impose sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The 378-34 vote was in support of a package approved by the U.S. Senate, meaning it will be sent to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign into law, ending weeks of haggling in Congress over how best to support Ukraine.

Besides the loan guarantee, the legislation provides $150 million in aid to Ukraine and surrounding countries and requires the State and Justice Departments to help the Kiev government recover assets amassed by corrupt Ukraine officials.

It also imposes mandatory sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, against Russians and Ukrainians determined to have engaged in violence or human rights abuses in Ukraine, undermined Ukraine's sovereignty or participated in "significant" corruption in Ukraine.

"This legislation is central to our effort to counter Russian aggression and support the democratic development of Ukraine," California Republican Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in the House in support of the bill.

The measure does not include International Monetary Fund reforms sought by the White House and resisted by many Republicans in a dispute that held up passage of the Ukraine bill for weeks.

With many Republicans insisting that the IMF reforms were unrelated to helping Ukraine, Senate Democrats agreed to drop them from the legislation last week in order to pass it quickly.

The White House said Obama welcomed Congress' finalization of a Ukraine assistance package, saying he supported the targeted sanctions authority in the bill.

In a statement, it also reiterated the administration's backing for the IMF measures "to ensure the IMF has the resources it needs to fulfill its mission and expand the tools available for Ukraine and other countries."

Several lawmakers said they wanted Obama to do even more to punish Russia and discourage Moscow from further intervention in Ukraine or elsewhere in eastern Europe, including targeting Russia's energy sector.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle,; Editing by Peter Cooney and Sandra Maler)

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