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Russia, EU Voice Concern About Proposed U.S. Sanctions

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov

Russia and the European Union are both expressing concern about proposed new U.S. sanctions against Moscow, focusing in particular on how they might affect joint energy projects.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman and EU officials spoke on July 24, a day after the White House said that President Donald Trump is open to new legislation that would slap fresh sanctions on Russia and limit his ability to ease or lift them by himself.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives reached agreement on the legislation last week, and the House could vote on it on July 26.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Russia is "working with our European partners on implementing a number of large-scale projects," when asked about the possible impact of the new U.S. sanctions on projects like Nord Stream 2.

"It goes without saying that we and our European partners attach great importance to finishing these projects and we will work towards this," Peskov said in response to a question about the potential effects of sanctions on projects such as Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that is to carry Russian gas across the Baltic Sea to Europe.

"That is why discussions about 'sanctions themes' -- which could potentially obstruct these projects -- are a cause of concern for us," he said.

In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that the EU is "activating all diplomatic channels to address these concerns [about] the U.S. measures with our U.S. counterparts."

"For us, G7 unity regarding sanctions is of key importance, respect of the implementation of the Minsk agreement," he said, referring to the Western-backed 2015 agreement on a cease-fire and steps to end the conflict between Russia-backed separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine.

"So we in the European Union will have interest in this discussion and we expect these interests to be addressed by the...legislative process which is ongoing in the U.S.," Schinas told a news conference.

The EU and the United States have imposed sanctions on Russia over its involvement in the war, which has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014, and over Russia's occupation and seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014.

On July 23, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "We support where the legislation is now and will continue working with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved."

Trump has repeatedly said he wants to improve ties with Moscow, triggering bipartisan concern in Congress that he could lift or ease sanctions against Russia.

The bill would require Trump to send a report to Congress outlining why the administration wants to suspend or terminate any sanctions against Russia. Lawmakers would then have one month to decide whether to allow such a move.

His refusal to do so would be likely to trigger political backlash in Washington, given the ongoing FBI and congressional investigations into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election and contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials.

But two senior U.S. senators said on July 23 that the legislation is likely to pass the Senate with enough support to override a possible veto by Trump.

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels, Reuters, and TASS
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