White House has not yet decided on Russia sanctions bill

The Obama administration has not yet made a decision on whether the president will sign a bill authorizing new sanctions against Russia over its activities in Ukraine, a senior administration official said on Monday.

Reuters| Updated: Dec 16, 2014, 04:51 AM IST

Washington: The Obama administration has not yet made a decision on whether the president will sign a bill authorizing new sanctions against Russia over its activities in Ukraine, a senior administration official said on Monday.

"We are looking at the bill now," the official said in an email. The official, who declined to be identified, said the administration "remains deeply concerned about the aggressive actions of Russia in Ukraine."

But the administration also feels it is important that any sanctions regime maintains a united front with U.S. allies and minimizes the impact on U.S. business, international oil markets and the global economy, the official said.

Obama had said previously he opposed further sanctions on Russia unless Europe is on board.

Congress passed the "Ukraine Freedom Support Act" during the weekend, seeking to put more pressure on President Vladimir Putin`s government by authorizing new sanctions on weapons companies and investors in its high-tech oil projects, and to boost the Kiev government with military aid.

It was sent to the White House, where Obama must decide whether to sign it into law or veto it.

John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, issued a statement on Monday urging Obama, a Democrat, to sign it.

The rouble plunged around 10 percent against the dollar on Monday, its sharpest fall since 1998, and Russian assets sold off across markets amid concern about possible new U.S. sanctions.

The bill authorizes Obama to apply sanctions on Russian state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport and other defense companies that Congress say contribute to instability in Ukraine, Georgia and Syria.

It also authorizes sanctions on global companies that make large investments in crude oil drilling projects in deep waters and the Arctic.

The penalties go beyond U.S. and EU sanctions imposed in September on the world`s largest oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp and BP Plc.

But it provides the White House significant leeway on whether to carry out the bill`s recommendations.

The legislation would also allow $350 million in lethal and non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine from 2015 to 2017 and other aid for energy to the country, which has been threatened by cutoffs in natural gas supply from Russia.