US Congress agrees on fresh sanctions for Russia

Leaders of both parties in the US Congress have agreed on legislation that allows fresh sanctions to punish Russia for alleged election meddling.

The new legislation would also sharply limits President Donald Trump’s ability to lift any sanctions against Russia.

He has previously said he needs diplomatic leeway with the Kremlin.

Mr Trump’s time in office has been dogged by claims that Russia tried to influence last year’s US election.

Moscow denies any wrongdoing but several US investigations are looking into whether anyone in the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials.

Chuck Schumer, Senate Democratic leader, said the House of Representatives and the Senate would act on the legislation “promptly, on a broad bipartisan basis”. He said a strong sanctions bill was “essential”.

The bill also covers the possibility of further sanctions against Iran and North Korea. It has already passed the Senate and the House is due to vote on it on Tuesday.

The legislation would allow new sanctions against Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea as well as for its alleged meddling in the US election.

The US already has a raft of sanctions in place against Russian individuals and companies over Crimea. In December, following claims of election hacking, then President Barack Obama also expelled 35 diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in the US.

The Kremlin has demanded that the seized compounds be returned and has threatened “specific measures” in retaliation.

After high-level talks last week, one Russian official involved said the row had “almost” been resolved.

However, the new US bill would make it hard for President Trump to alter sanctions or return diplomatic properties without the approval of Congress.

During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump hinted he would consider recognising Crimea as part of Russia and suggested lifting sanctions.