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Obama to sign Russia sanctions bill

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Washington: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with American health care workers fighting Ebola at the White House in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, on Oct. 29, 2014. Obama praised on Wednesday American health care workers fighting Ebola in West Africa as heroes.(Xinhua/Yin Bogu/IANS)US President Barack Obama intends to sign into law a bill that will ratchet up sanctions on Russia and provide additional assistance to Ukraine, the White House said.

At a regular briefing, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest expressed the administration’s concerns about the legislation because “it includes some sanctions language that does not reflect the consultations that are ongoing”.

“That said, because it does preserve the president’s flexibility to carry out the strategy, he does intend to sign the bill,” Xinhua quoted Earnest as saying. He added that he anticipated Obama would sign the bill before the end of the week.

The Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which passed both houses of the Congress last week, requires Obama to apply sanctions against Russian defence firms, including specifically Rosoboronexport, a state-owned arms dealer. It would also target Russia’s energy companies.

In addition, the bill would give Obama the authority to provide $350 million military assistance to Ukraine. It includes anti-tank and anti-armour weapons.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Saturday that the new US legislation testified to “the anti-Russian sentiments as well as attempts to impose decisions on us that are categorically unacceptable”.

The new legislation comes as the value of Russia’s currency, the ruble, has collapsed in recent weeks and the price of oil, Russia’s top export, experienced a large drop.

The US and Europe have levied several rounds of penalties on Russia’s energy, financial and military sectors over its alleged destabilising role in the Ukraine crisis, seriously hitting Russia’s economy as the most recent official report said the country will fall into recession in 2015.