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John Boehner welcomes Obama's order for sanctions aimed at Russia

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House Speaker John Boehner said he supports President Obama's executive order Thursday that readies sanctions to freeze assets and block U.S. visas for those responsible for “destabilizing Ukraine.”

"This is a welcome first step, but we remain committed to working with the administration to give President Obama as many tools as needed to put [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin in check and prevent Russia from infringing on the sovereignty of any of its neighbors," the Ohio Republican said during a briefing with reporters at the Capitol on Thursday.

Boehner added the president was justified when he said Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimea region also poses a "national emergency" for the United States that threatens its national security and foreign policy.

The speaker also implored Obama to order Energy Department Secretary Ernest Moniz to expedite the approval of U.S. natural gas exports to Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

"Russia has an energy stranglehold on much of Europe and has been using it to its own advantage," Boehner said. "There is growing consensus that ending this de facto export ban [of natural gas to Europe] would not only keep Putin in check but help our economy as well and help our allies in Europe.

"I think it's time to act, and I hope the president does."

Meanwhile, the House is expected to vote Thursday on a $1 billion loan package for Ukraine. When asked if he thought the aid was enough, Boehner said the House also is working with the Senate and White House on legislation to impose sanctions against Russia.

"We're continuing to work on a package of sanctions … to give the president tools that he might employ that would strengthen his hand in dealing with this very difficult problem," he said.

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Sean Lengell

Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner