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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Congress Asks Clinton to Cut Russian Aid if Pope Not Freed

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a resolution calling on Russia to immediately release a U.S. businessman accused of spying and asking President Bill Clinton to consider cutting Russian financial aid if it does not.

The resolution was passed Tuesday by the full House in a voice vote after the International Relations Committee unanimously approved it last week.

The case of Edmond Pope, a former naval intelligence officer who has been charged with espionage, has strained diplomatic ties between Washington and Moscow, and U.S. officials have pressed for his release, arguing that he conducted legitimate business in Russia and therefore broke no laws.

Pope, who has bone cancer, has been held in a Moscow prison since his arrest in April for allegedly trying to obtain underwater missile technology from a Russian scientist.

He is due to go on trial as early as next week and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Russian lawmakers angrily denounced the resolution Wednesday, and State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov said it was "crude interference in our criminal procedural legislation."

"President Clinton, it seems, has decided that America can do anything it wants," he said. "This cannot stand.

"The Americans should send over fewer spies. Then we can waste fewer resources catching them and proving their guilt."

Alexei Arbatov, deputy head of the Duma’s defense committee and a member of the liberal Yabloko party, called the House resolution "a great stupidity" and said Clinton would probably ignore it.

A provision in the House resolution, which is not binding and has no companion legislation in the Senate, asks Clinton to consider terminating all financial assistance to Russia and to authorize U.S. officials to try to block Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization unless Pope is released.

It also opposes rescheduling millions of dollars of Soviet-era debt owed by Moscow to the United States.