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U.S. Official Says Upcoming Deadline For New Russian Sanctions Will Be Met


U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- A top U.S. State Department official said the administration was committed to meeting a February deadline to specify new measures against Russia officials and influential businessmen for Moscow's alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

The December 12 remarks by Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, come amid doubts that President Donald Trump will fulfill the sanctions that were backed by Congress in legislation passed earlier this year.

After an October deadline was missed, Republican and Democratic senators pressed the Treasury Department and the White House to move forward on the measure.

The next deadline is February 2, when the Treasury Department is supposed to release a list of Russian officials and Kremlin-connected business leaders to be targeted for restrictions. That could include limitations on financial transactions with banks, real estate brokerages, and other institutions.

Speaking to a panel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mitchell said the Trump administration was committed to meeting that deadline.

The new legislation, called Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, also includes measures that could impact energy companies doing deals in Europe, or, for example, with commercial ties to the Russian undersea pipeline project known as Nordstream 2.

Mitchell told senators that the administration believed the pipeline was unwise for European energy security, saying that it would concentrate 75 percent of Russian gas exports to Europe in one pipeline.

"This is a political, not a commercial project," he said.

He said Germany’s continuing support for the pipeline was critical to the project's future, and it was unclear whether Chancellor Angela Merkel’s still-unformed government would pull its support.

"On energy security, Germany gets it wrong. And it gets it wrong in a way that hurts other EU, and NATO members states, both financially and geopolitically," he said.

Mitchell also had praise for Ukraine, and the administration of President Petro Poroshenko, on reforming the country’s regulatory oversight of energy markets, in particular tariffs for natural gas supplies and pipeline transit.

But he also warned that further reforms were needed, particularly with respect to state energy company Naftogaz.

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