US Senate Upholds Lifting Sanctions on Russian's Companies

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Aluminium ingots are seen stored at the foundry shop of the Rusal Krasnoyarsk aluminium smelter in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

In April, the Trump administration placed USA sanctions on three businesses connected to an oligarch associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Treasury's decision to ease the sanctions narrowly survived a Senate vote Wednesday when Democrats failed to win the 60 votes needed to block it.

The House of Representatives will vote on a similar measure Thursday.

But its long-term fate was uncertain.

Under a 2017 sanctions law, Congress has the authority to halt any decision by the Trump administration to weaken sanctions, providing lawmakers with a 30-day window to reject the plan.

The U.S. Treasury Department has argued that leaving these sanctions in place could hurt the global aluminum market or cause the Russian government to take over the company. According to the agreement struck with Treasury, Deripaska's stake in EN+ Group was reduced from 70 percent to 45 percent, and he could only vote 35 percent of his shares. "There is no indication that Russian policy has changed, so now is not the time to lift sanctions".

Deripaska, an influential businessman close to Putin, himself would remain subject to U.S. sanctions.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) and the rest of the GOP leadership team also joined Democrats to support the resolution.

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"However I don't think the proposed deal adequately accounts for the way power and influence work in Moscow around [Russian President] Vladimir Putin's inner circle", the Republican from Dardanelle said. "But it seems that acquiescence to the president, a fear of breaking with the president, has held back too many of my Republican colleagues from supporting this resolution". Direct and indirect ownership interest of the Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska in En+ that has been slapped with USA sanctions, will be reduced to below 50%, the company said in a statement on Friday. Mr. Deripaska's companies waged an aggressive lobbying and legal campaign against the sanctions previous year.

Rusal is the world's largest aluminium producer outside China.

China's aluminium exports jumped to a record high in 2018.

His three companies, Rusal, EN+, and ESE, had been lobbying ever since to be removed from the sanctions list.

Congress has the power to reject any lessening of sanctions on Russian Federation, but only if it has enough votes. Speaking after the Senate meeting, he said the sanctions "shouldn't be a political issue".

Schumer, in comments on the Senate floor, questioned why more Republicans weren't willing to support the resolution, given their decades-long rhetoric about standing up toward Russian Federation and Putin.

The pushback came despite a last-minute plea by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to support Treasury's plan, which has the backing of Team Trump despite Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.

The US military said on Wednesday that four Americans had been killed in Syria in a bomb attack claimed by Islamic State militants.

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