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WASHINGTON: The United States on Monday suspended for one year the tariffs imposed on Ukrainian steel imports in a move designed to help the embattled nation’s economy.

In the wake of the dramatic evacuation of civilians sheltering in a steel plant in Mariupol after Russian forces bombarded the port city, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo heralded the importance of the industry that continues to operate and employ one in every 13 Ukrainians, providing them with an “economic lifeline.”

“We can’t just admire the fortitude and spirit of the Ukrainian people – we need to have their backs and support one of the most important industries to Ukraine’s economic well-being,” Raimondo said in a statement.

“For steel mills to continue as an economic lifeline for the people of Ukraine, they must be able to export their steel.”

Russian ceasefire to begin at besieged Mariupol steel plant

The 25 percent tariff on steel was imposed in March 2018 to protect domestic industry, although a handful of countries were exempted.

Lawmakers and business leaders had called on President Joe Biden to remove the duties to help ease the economic blow to the Ukrainian economy.

Raimondo said the move was “a signal to the Ukrainian people that we are committed to helping them thrive in the face of (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin’s aggression.

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