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    Mnuchin urges senators to support easing Russia sanctions

    WASHINGTON (AP) – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is urging senators to vote against a Democratic resolution that would maintain sanctions on companies linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

    Mnuchin met with Republican senators behind closed doors on Tuesday in the hours before a planned Senate vote on the sanctions resolution.

    The measure would block a Treasury Department move to lift penalties against the aluminium manufacturing giant Rusal and two other companies connected to Deripaska.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mnuchin said, “We have been tougher on Russia with more sanctions than any other administration.” He said the sanctions “shouldn’t be a political issue.”

    The Treasury Department says the Russian companies have committed to separating from Deripaska, who will remain blacklisted as part of an array of measures announced in early April that targeted tycoons close to the Kremlin. It also warns that the sanctions could upset global aluminium markets.

    The vote comes as Democrats have questioned President Donald Trump’s Russian ties and questioned whether his administration is being too soft on Russia. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, who introduced the resolution and called for a vote on it, called the Treasury Department decision “sanctions relief for President (Vladimir) Putin’s trusted agents.” Congress has 30 days to block the move to terminate the sanctions.

    Democratic House leaders have also criticised the move and are considering a similar vote. The new Democratic chairmen of seven committees called Mnuchin in for a classified briefing last week on the easing of the sanctions.

    US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington. – AFP

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