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U.S. Spending Bill With Ukraine Aid Moves In Congress

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addresses a joint meeting of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington in September.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addresses a joint meeting of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington in September.

WASHINGTON -- A $1.1 trillion spending bill that includes provisions to assist Ukraine and punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea has passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill, which provides funding for most of the U.S. government through September, was approved by a 219-206 vote in the House on December 11 and is to be debated in the Senate on December 12.

Buried in the 1,600-page bill are provisions authorizing loan guarantees to Ukraine, hurdles for aid to governments that have recognized the annexation of Crimea, and a ban on contracts with Russia's main weapons exporter, Rosoboroneksport.

The legislation authorizes $175 million for the European Reassurance Initiative, allowing the United States to provide military assistance to Ukraine and the Baltic states. At least $1 billion in new loan guarantees to Ukraine would be authorized by the bill, according to "The Wall Street Journal."

Funding for U.S. federal agencies had been set to expire at midnight on December11, but lawmakers also passed a 48-hour extension to give the Senate more time to consider the spending bill. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said it would be debated on December 12.

The spending bill forbids the allocation of any funds to Russia's central government.

Governments that have "taken affirmative steps" -- as determined by the secretary of state -- supportive of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region would also be prohibited from receiving foreign assistance. However, the provision could be waived if the secretary determines it is in the "national interest" of the United States to provide aid.

The bill also bans the U.S. Department of Defense from contracting with Rosoboroneksport, Russia's main weapons exporter. Rosoboroneksport provided 63 military helicopters to the Afghan National Army under a 2011 U.S. Department of Defense contract, but it was fulfilled in October.

The bill provides an exception to the ban if the secretary of defense determines it is in the "vital national security" interest of the United States. In addition, the secretary must certify that the arms exporter has halted weapons deliveries to Syria, Russia has withdrawn from Crimea and that Russian agents have stopped destabilizing Ukraine.

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