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The United States ends its normal commercial relations with Russia following the invasion of Ukraine


Ukraine accused Russia of war crimes during the invasion

Washington:

The US Congress voted on Thursday to end normal trade relations with Moscow and codify a ban on Russian oil, as the White House ramps up pressure on President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.

The legislation – which also applies to Russia’s ally Belarus and allows President Joe Biden to impose steep tariff hikes on imports – had passed the Senate unanimously before being approved by the House of Representatives.

Biden announced the steps in a speech last month, saying Russia must “pay the price” for the bloodshed at its ex-Soviet neighbor, where it has denied accusations of atrocities.

“Putin must absolutely be held responsible for the heinous and despicable war crimes he is committing against Ukraine: the images we have seen coming out of this country (…) are simply diabolical”, declared the head of the majority in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.

“It reminds us of the worst moments in human history, caused by the evil man Putin: hundreds of civilians murdered in cold blood.”

A key principle of the World Trade Organization, the so-called most-favoured-nation status known in the United States as permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), requires countries to guarantee each other tariff treatment and regulatory equal.

The latest trade sanction, which passed the House with the support of all Democrats and just three Republicans voting no, covers several sets of measures primarily intended to sever Moscow’s economic and financial ties with the rest of the world.

They have included banning Russian oil imports — a measure Biden has already implemented by executive order — seizing the assets of Putin-linked billionaires and freezing the country’s stockpile of cash.

Together, these measures have already pushed Moscow to the brink of default.

The measures have also sent prices for key commodities, such as gasoline and wheat, skyrocketing, hurting US consumers already facing the highest inflation in four decades.

The United States imported just under $30 billion in goods from Russia last year, including $17.5 billion in crude oil.

The legislation includes a measure to reauthorize Magnitsky Act sanctions that target human rights abuses and corruption with visa bans, asset freezes and other penalties.

The United States decided on Wednesday to block foreign investment in Russia and state-owned companies and imposed new sanctions on the country’s banks and senior officials.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC News that global sanctions had pushed Russia’s economy into a “deep recession”.

“And what we see is a probable contraction of the Russian economy of around 15%,” he said.

“It’s dramatic… We’ve seen an exodus from Russia of virtually every major corporation in the world. And Putin, in the space of a few weeks, has virtually closed Russia off to the world.”

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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