House advances Ukraine Support Act

The House of Representatives approved the Ukraine Support Act on Thursday, which would authorize financial assistance to Ukraine and sanctions against those who undermine the country’s sovereignty.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) introduced the legislation on March 21.

Under the bill, President Barack Obama would be authorized to use up to $50 million to support fair democratic elections in Ukraine in May. The measure also would direct $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees recently approved by Congress to promote government, banking, energy sector reform and anti-corruption efforts.

The measure would also authorize funding to support enhanced law enforcement capabilities and radio broadcasts of uncensored information.

“We must target those guilty of aggression against Ukraine and stand by our allies and friends to ensure peace and security in Europe,” Royce said. “(Thursday’s) critical legislation also seeks to end Russia’s ability to use its energy reserves to blackmail Ukraine and other countries by increasing U.S. energy exports. Passage of this bill by the House (on Thursday) demonstrates that our words do have meaning and sends a clear message of American resolve that will be heard in Kiev, in Moscow, and around the world.”

The measure would codify sanctions against individuals who have been involved in violence in Ukraine or those who have undermined its independence. The measure also would call for targeted sanctions for human rights abuses, violation of territorial integrity, acts of corruption and involvement in Russia’s arms sector.

“Russia needs to know that the United States is committed in its resolve to punish Russian leaders for their invasion of a sovereign country and are willing to do everything it takes to isolate them on the international stage,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said. “This legislation is a good first step, but more needs to be done to convey that America will not tolerate Russia’s reckless actions, and I stand ready to continue working with my colleagues to make that message clear.”

Under the measure, the Obama administration would be directed to report to Congress on senior Russian officials who could be sanctioned for their actions. The administration would also be directed to scrutinize Russian banks to determine if money laundering, sanction skirting or terrorism funding has taken place.