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US senators propose sanctions on Russian oil production investments

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US senators propose sanctions on Russian oil production investments

Washington — Six US senators Thursday unveiled a new bill that would prohibit support of Russian crude oil production and transactions in new energy projects supported by the Russian government, placing new hurdles on future output.

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If Congress passes, and it is signed by President Donald Trump, the bill would impose new sanctions on investment transactions in energy projects outside of Russia that Russia's government supports, either directly or indirectly.

It would also prohibit investments in goods, services, technology, financing or support that would contribute to Russia's ability to develop crude oil resources in Russia, according to the proposed bill's text. The new sanctions would not apply to projects already underway at the time of the bill's enactment.

The bill, formally known as the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act, or DASKA, is in response to Russia's "continued interference in our elections, malign influence in Syria, aggression in Crimea, and other activities," the senators said in a statement.

"The sanctions and other measures contained in this bill are the most hard-hitting ever imposed -- and a direct result of Putin's continued desire to undermine American democracy," Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican-South Carolina, said in a statement.

Along with Graham, the bill was co-sponsored by two other Republicans -- Cory Gardner of Colorado and John McCain of Arizona -- and three Democrats, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

The legislation includes multiple new sanctions on Russian politicians and oligarchs, new prohibitions on sovereign debt transactions and an extension on the cap of Russian uranium imports.

The bill comes amid growing speculation that Trump could weaken US sanctions on Russia's energy sector. In response, US congressional leaders have been pushing legislation to strengthen sanctions on Russian export pipelines and joint ventures with Russian oil and natural gas companies.

Last month, Democrats in the US House of Representatives introduced the Secure America from Russian Interference Act which, among other provisions, would prohibit the Trump administration from granting waivers and special licenses that would allow companies to get around Obama administration-era prohibitions on Russian oil and gas agreements.

Senator John Barrasso, Republican-Wyoming, has introduced a bill which would impose mandatory sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican-Kentucky, said "there's a possibility" that the Senate would take up a bill from senators Marco Rubio, Republican-Florida, and Chris Van Hollen, Democrat-Maryland, known as the DETER Act, which would impose new sanctions against Russia.

The sanctions, which would target Russia's finance, energy, defense, and metals and mining sectors, would be imposed if the director of national intelligence determines that Russia again has interfered in a US election.

Sanctions legislation may be difficult to move through the current Congress, because of limited floor time and competition from other legislative efforts, but may be taken up after November's mid-term elections, particularly if Democrats win control of the House and Senate. --Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

--Edited by Valarie Jackson, valarie.jackson@spglobal.com