US Congress demands Russia withdraw, mulls Ukraine aid

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The US Congress has demanded Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine and urged US President Barack Obama to impose punitive economic sanctions on Moscow.

The Senate expressed its support for Ukraine by passing strongly worded resolutions, using tough language against Russia and urging it be suspended from the Group of 8 world powers.

The non-binding resolution, passed by unanimous consent, called for targeted economic sanctions to "compel President Vladimir Putin to remove his armed forces from Ukrainian territory and return that territory to full Ukrainian sovereign control."

The measure also called on world soccer's governing body FIFA to reconsider its decision to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The House of Representatives also passed a resolution to condemn what House Speaker John Boehner called: "Russia's hostile acts of aggression."

"Vladimir Putin has proven himself a menace and a threat to stability in the region, and he must be held accountable," Boehner said.

The moves precede legislation to be brought before the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, aimed at aiding Ukraine and punishing Russia.

A sticking point is whether changes to International Monetary Fund rules on how much money nations contribute will be included in the measure.

The reforms, which would increase the IMF's permanent holdings, allowing it to lend more, were approved by the body in 2010 but have yet to be ratified by the US Congress.

"My hope is that we get a bipartisan vote out of the committee on it and it will help an effort to include it as part of the Ukraine package," committee chairman Senator Robert Menendez told reporters yesterday.

Some Republicans have expressed concern that changing IMF rules would increase US taxpayer burdens.

"I'd like to see the IMF piece included also," said Senator Bob Corker, the committee's top Republican, according to Politico.

"But one of the issues is actually paying for it."

The House of Representatives last week approved the provision of loan guarantees for the $1 billion in aid pledged by the White House to Ukraine, but the IMF reforms were not part of the legislation.

It remained "too early to tell" yesterday if the IMF reforms would be dropped from the Senate bill, Senator Tim Kaine said.

"It's my desire personally to add the IMF portion in, because I think the IMF assets could be extremely helpful."

If Menendez's committee approves the measure it would then be considered by the full Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that, barring any blocking by Republicans, there was ample time for the chamber to vote on a bill before senators depart Washington on Friday for a one week break.


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