White House says Trump to sign bill on Russia sanctions

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-29 17:52:34|Editor: An
Video PlayerClose

WASHINGTON, July 28 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump has approved a bill that imposes additional sanctions on Russia and intends to sign it, the White House said Friday.

The U.S. president "read early drafts of the bill and negotiated regarding critical elements of it," the White House said in a statement.

"He has now reviewed the final version and, based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves the bill and intends to sign it," it added.

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill that will slap tougher sanctions on Russia, Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The bill will also grant U.S. Congress the power to block Trump from unilaterally lifting sanctions on Russia.

This bill came although Trump administration officials had called on lawmakers to grant "flexibility" to the White House in dealing with Russia.

Trump's approval of the bill came after Russia announced that it would scale down U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people and seize a U.S. warehouse and a recreational compound known as a "dacha" in Moscow in retaliation for Washington's anti-Russian actions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has personally authorized the Foreign Ministry statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.

"We have received the Russian government notification. Ambassador (John) Tefft expressed his strong disappointment and protest. We have passed the notification back to Washington for review," the U.S. Embassy in Russia said in a statement.

Russia will respond to U.S. sanctions while still willing to normalize bilateral relations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by phone on Friday.

These moves were caused by a series of hostile actions by Washington, including "unlawful" sanctions and "slanderous" accusations against Russia, said Lavrov, according to a statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

In December 2016, 35 Russian diplomats were expelled and two retreats in New York and Maryland used by Russian diplomats for recreation and receptions were closed by the administration of outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama over accusations of alleged Russian hacking during the presidential election.

"The Russian decision to reduce U.S. diplomatic staff appears linked directly to the new Congressional sanctions bill," Steven Pifer, senior fellow of Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.

"Neither action will help the U.S.-Russia relationship, which was already at a difficult level," said Pifer.

Meanwhile, the security expert said plenty of work is needed to improve the frayed relations.

"It is going to take patient, hard diplomacy to move the relationship to a better point," Pifer added.