Russian sanctions standstill over MPs’ aim to broaden Syria probe

Western diplomats have said that they will delay taking a stance on proposed sanctions against Russia until more clarification about the activities of a US lawmaker who met with Kremlin representatives. At the core…

Russian sanctions standstill over MPs' aim to broaden Syria probe

Western diplomats have said that they will delay taking a stance on proposed sanctions against Russia until more clarification about the activities of a US lawmaker who met with Kremlin representatives.

At the core of the standoff is a war in Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels have been fighting government forces since 2014.

The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said on Sunday that he would wait until Monday to review legislation introduced by US congressmen to sanction Russian officials and oligarchs over their role in the Ukraine conflict.

Andrea Mitchell (@AndreaMitchell) OFPAA has a separate two-week transmittal period to assess the needs of its members. UK will not be signing on for now #Russia? pic.twitter.com/gVlbt0nMJq

A member of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, Liz Cheney, wrote to the chair of the committee, Eliot Engel, on 26 February in which she invited him to a hearing on the assistance Russia offered Syria’s government in defeating its opponents in the country’s five-year civil war.

“During our recent visit to Ukraine, I was eager to underscore the fact that the only humanitarian assistance Russia is providing the regime in Syria is weapons that would be used against innocent civilian civilians,” she wrote.

Tensions between the US and Russia reached a high in 2017, a year that featured nerve agent attacks in the UK that London has alleged were carried out by Russia, alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election and allegations that the Kremlin meddled in the German elections that year.

Schiff’s letter – dated 16 February and sent to Engel just before the holiday weekend – recommended that the chamber pass bills that would bar US companies from providing arms or other lethal equipment to Russia, and that imposed sanctions on US officials and Russian officials accused of interfering in the US and other countries’ elections.

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“Russia remains intent on undermining democracies throughout the world, and I have yet to see any action by Russia that endangers the very governments that we all work together to uphold,” she wrote.

It is unclear what Cheney meant by saying that Russia needed arms in Syria. Cheney’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

On Monday, US senator Jeanne Shaheen, the ranking Democrat on the Senate armed services committee, and eight other senators wrote a letter to the panel’s chair, Senator John McCain, asking for the panel to postpone consideration of the sanctions while it considered the senators’ requests.

“Earlier this month we were concerned that the chairman of the committee had allowed an unauthorised internal discussion of whether the United States should move to block sales of the S-300 air defense system to Russia,” Shaheen and the other senators wrote.

However, in a response sent on Monday to the senators, the panel’s chair appeared to retreat on the issue, saying the “senators’ specific questions will require a thorough review of all relevant issues.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the senators’ demands aimed to circumvent “existing mechanisms of United States-Russia cooperation”.

In response to Cheney’s request for a hearing on Syria, Engel said in a statement on Monday that the hearing would “not be at the urging of a US House member who has been publicly critical of our relationship with Russia”.

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