(Updates number of sponsors, add details of proposed
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, April 30 A group of Republican U.S.
senators introduced legislation on Wednesday proposing their own
measures to punish Russia over the Ukraine crisis, including
sanctions on major banks and energy companies, as well as $100
million in military aid for Kiev.
Saying they were frustrated with President Barack Obama's
reaction to Russia's military action in Ukraine, the lawmakers
said the package would also require Obama to increase
substantially U.S. and NATO support for the armed forces of
Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia and accelerate
implementation of missile defense in Europe.
The legislation provides authority for exports of U.S.
natural gas to all World Trade Organization members, a demand of
Republicans since the Ukraine crisis began, and provides support
to encourage U.S. companies to invest in energy projects in
Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.
Backers of the bill included Senator Bob Corker of
Tennessee, John McCain of Arizona and other leading Republican
foreign policy voices. Corker, the top Republican on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, called Obama's response to the
crisis "tepid" and "cautious."
"We want put real sanctions in place that have an effect on
the Russian economy," he told a news conference.
Sponsors said at the news conference the measure had 19
co-sponsors, but the number rose to 21 later in the day.
The bill also seeks immediate new sanctions on four Russian
banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, VEB Bank
, Gazprombank, as well as energy firms
Gazprom, Novatek and Rosneft, and
Rosoboronexport, a major Russian arms exporter.
There was no immediate word on whether the Senate, which is
controlled by Obama's fellow Democrats, would vote on the bill.
Democratic aides said neither Democratic leaders nor the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee had seen the measure.
Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, a senior member of
the foreign relations panel, told Reuters he preferred Obama's
more incremental approach to sanctions, including working
closely with European allies and supporting the Ukraine economy.
"But I can understand, knowing the partisan nature here in
Congress, that this would be an area that they (the Republicans)
would use to underscore their displeasure with the Obama
administration, which is unfortunate," he said.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler, Eric
Beech and Meredith Mazzilli)