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U.S. lawmakers seek bar on Russia's state arms exporter

WASHINGTON, May 15 (Reuters) - Three U.S. senators said they would introduce legislation on Thursday to punish Moscow over the Ukraine crisis by banning any use of U.S. funds for contracts or agreements with the Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport.

The "Russian Weapons Embargo Act of 2014" would immediately end existing contracts and agreements with the Russian company and forbid the use of U.S. tax dollars to enter agreements with it. It would also prohibit contracts with any U.S. or foreign company that cooperates with Rosoboronexport to design, make or sell military equipment.

Saying they are frustrated with President Barack Obama's reaction to Russia's actions in Ukraine, many lawmakers, particularly Republicans, have been calling for stricter sanctions against Russian industries and companies than those announced by the Democratic administration, and said they should be imposed more quickly.

The U.S. Defense Department buys Russian helicopters for Afghanistan as part of a $1.1 billion contract with Rosoboronexport.

In a column in the National Review, U.S. Senator Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican and one of the bill's co-sponsors, noted the company provides arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad's forces have killed thousands of civilians during a three-year-old civil war against rebels seeking to oust him from power.

"Using taxpayer funds to buy Russian equipment was objectionable when it began, became more objectionable as the Russians continued to supply Assad, and now is entirely unacceptable," he said.

The other sponsors of the bill are Texas Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)