Comprehensive Sanction Package is Decisive Action Against Russian Abuses

Human Rights First today applauded bipartisan efforts in the Senate to provide congressional oversight over executive branch sanctions authority—including any efforts to reduce current sanctions—against Russia for its aggressive activities in Ukraine, military actions in Syria, and interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The proposal also includes targeted sanctions against individuals engaged in corrupt activities and/or human rights abuses. The measure introduced yesterday incorporates new and existing sanctions, culled from legislative proposals introduced by both Democrats and Republicans. The comprehensive package will be attached to the Iran Sanctions Act, a bill solidifying sanctions against Iran.

“This measure takes an important step towards holding the Russian government accountable for its disregard for the rule of law and aggressive use of influence to disrespect state sovereignty and promote corrupt and anti-democratic practices,” said Human Rights First’s Melissa Hooper. “We have advocated for the United States to take decisive action against the Kremlin’s export of corruption, spread of disinformation, and undermining of human rights standards. This is that action.”

The legislation not only codifies existing sanctions, but also mandates new sanctions for individuals responsible for human rights abuses and those who materially assist in such abuses, and against companies or individuals that knowingly attempt or assist in evasion of sanctions. It further provides Congress and the Department of State mechanisms to combat Russian corrupt influence, by allocating $250 million to support U.S. allies in combating Russian attempts to spread corruption, institutionalize anti-human rights ideas and practices, and shut down open and free access to information.

The bill additionally requires a number of reports be drafted, such as those regarding the Russian government’s use of media, and the use of official funds to exert influence in Europe and Eurasia. Such reports will ensure that members of Congress are operating with full information about the Russian government’s attempts to undermine democratic processes and institutions through underhanded methods.

The comprehensive sanctions package was submitted by Senator Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) after consultations with Senators Corker (R-TN), Crapo (R-ID), Schumer (D-NY), Cardin (D-MD), Brown (D-OH), McCain (R-AZ), and Graham (R-SC).

“Bipartisan support for such a comprehensive effort shows that the United States is taking Russian corruption, human rights violations, and harmful influence seriously,” added Hooper. “The Senate should swiftly approve this measure and put the Kremlin on notice.”

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