U.S. Senate Leader McConnell opposes lifting Russia sanctions

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WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate’s Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Friday he opposes lifting any sanctions on Russia, a day before President Donald Trump is to have his first official telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“These sanctions were imposed because of their behavior in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now we know they’ve been messing around in our elections as well,” McConnell said in an interview with Politico on Friday. “If there’s any country in the world that doesn’t deserve sanctions relief, it’s Russia.”

Trump, on the other hand, was mum about the subject during a joint press conference with British prime minister Theresa May earlier on Friday. He said he hoped to have good relations with Russia and a “fantastic relationship” with Putin, but admitted it was possible that would not occur.

McConnell’s stance seems to closer reflect those of most Congress members. Sen. John McCain warned Trump that it would be “naive and dangerous” to ease Russia’s sanctions, according to The Guardian.

“For the sake of America’s national security and that of our allies, I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation and reject such a reckless course. If he does not, I will work with my colleagues to codify sanctions against Russia into law,” McCain said.

However, McConnell declined to comment on McCain’s suggestion to potentially add new sanctions against Russia if Trump were to ease the existing ones.

“I think the first step is to make sure we don’t undo — either legislatively or through the executive branch — any of the existing sanctions,” McConnell said, according to The Hill. “And we’ll talk about new ones in the future.”

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(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chris Reese)

AOL contributed to this report

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