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Ukraine Passes Law On Russia Sanctions, Gas Pipelines

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (right) and Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan during a session in parliament on August 14 which passed laws allowing sanctions to be imposed on Russia.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (right) and Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan during a session in parliament on August 14 which passed laws allowing sanctions to be imposed on Russia.

Ukraine's parliament has passed legislation that would allow the government to impose sanctions on Russia.

The bill was approved in a final reading on August 14.

It provides for sanctions against 172 individuals and 65 entities in Russia and other countries for supporting and financing "terrorism" in Ukraine, though actual sanctions would need approval from Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council.

A total of 244 lawmakers in the Verkhovna Rada supported the sanctions.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament after the August 14 vote that Ukraine had taken a historic step.

"By approving the law on sanctions, we showed that the country is able to protect itself," he said. "The law should give a clear answer to any aggressor or terrorist who threatens our national security, our government, and our citizens."

The names of those Russian individuals and companies targeted by the sanctions will not be published until President Petro Poroshenko has signed the law into force.

Naftohaz, Ukraine's state-run energy firm, said in a statement on August 13 that future sanctions against Russia would not necessarily target Russia's gas giant Gazprom, however.

"The adoption of the sanctions law will not lead automatically to sanctions against any entity, including Gazprom. The law simply establishes the legal right to implement them," the statement said.

A version of the bill passed on first reading on August 12 had included provisions allowing the censoring of media deemed a national security threat. Those provisions were removed from the final version of the bill, however.

Rights groups had said the law would give the council "draconian" powers to restrict media and could return a nation once celebrated for media freedoms to Soviet-era levels of censorship.

In a statement, the representative on media freedom for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Dunja Mijatovic, welcomed the move to drop the media provisions as a "step in the right direction."

"The provisions could potentially endanger free media and pluralism in Ukraine," she said, "and by dropping them the legislators have taken a decision to protect and ensure free media and freedom of expression, rather than restricting free speech."

Also on August 14, Ukraine's parliament approved a bill to allow gas-transit facilities to be leased on a joint-venture basis with participation from EU and U.S. firms.

The measure says Ukraine will hold 51 percent and foreign partners will be offered 49 percent in the venture.

It covers both transit pipelines and underground gas-storage facilities.

The law passed by 228 votes -- two more than the minimum necessary.

Ukraine is making efforts to become less dependent on Russian gas after suffering three cutoffs of natural-gas supplies from Russia in less than nine years.

At the same time, Kyiv wants to provide more reliable transit for Russian gas to the EU market.

Kyiv says the measure will bring in investment and remove the need for the South Stream pipeline, which Russia is building to take gas to southeastern Europe across the Black Sea, bypassing Ukraine.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS
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