U.S. senators writing bill with ‘substantial’ Ukraine defense aid increases – sources

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FILE PHOTO: Russian service members hold drills in the Rostov region

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators have been meeting to hammer out legislation that would dramatically increase the amount of U.S. military aid for Ukraine, as it faces the threat of an invasion by Russia.

The group of about five Democrats and five Republican Senators has made progress in talks on a bill, a source familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.

Their goal is to write a bill that will pass the Senate next week. To become law, it would also have to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by President Joe Biden.

Lawmakers from both parties have said they want to act quickly to boost Ukraine. Russia has been building up its forces on Ukraine’s borders for months and has demanded NATO pull troops and weapons from eastern Europe and bar the former Soviet state from ever joining the U.S.-led military alliance.

There are still areas of disagreement between senators from the two parties, especially over whether to impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

Members of the two parties are also working out an agreement on what sanctions if any should be imposed on Russia now and what should be imposed after any invasion, Senate aides said.

A spokesman for Senator Bob Menendez declined comment on specifics in talks on the bill. Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led Democrats this month in introducing legislation to impose sweeping sanctions on top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, as well as banking institutions, in case of an invasion.

Republicans would like the bill to include a “substantial increase” in the so-called presidential draw down authority, or PDA, an expedited mechanism for providing security assistance to Ukraine, according to the source familiar with the negotiations.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Daniel Wallis)