The Trump administration on Monday praised Ukraine's decision to begin importing more U.S. coal for the winter heating season, saying the country no longer will be forced to rely on Russia for its energy needs.

"In recent years, Kiev and much of Eastern Europe have been reliant on and beholden to Russia to keep the heat on," said Energy Secretary Rick Perry. "That changes now."

Perry was responding to a contract reached between Pennsylvania-based Xcoal Energy and Resources and Ukraine's state-owned Centrenergo utility company.

"In the past, Russia has tried to choke off opposition to its ambitions by restricting the flow of natural gas to its western neighbors," said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a joint statement with Perry. "Under President Trump's leadership, I look forward to working with Secretary Perry and others in industry and government to further expand American exports in support of our goals of keeping this country safe and promoting robust economic growth."

The announcement came after Congress passed a bill last week imposing sanctions on Russia, which President Trump has indicated he will sign. The bill created new tensions between Russia and the U.S., with the Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing that several hundred American diplomatic staff will be asked to leave the Russian Federation.

"In today's turbulent world, geopolitical turmoil can create uncertainty for nations without access to an abundance of their own natural resources," Perry added in his statement on the coal deal. "No one knows this more than Ukraine. The United States can offer Ukraine an alternative, and today we are pleased to announce that we will."

He said U.S. coal "will be a secure and reliable energy source" for Ukraine's Centrenergo utility and its customers. "This announcement will also boost our own economy by supporting jobs in the coal and transportation industries," Perry added.

"This administration looks forward to making available even more of our abundant natural resources to allies and partners like Ukraine in the future to promote their own energy security through diversity of supply and source," he said. "Partnerships like this are crucial to the path forward to achieve energy dominance."

The announcement comes after the federal government reported that demand for U.S. coal exports is surging in Europe despite apprehension in the continent over the effects that burning coal would have on global warming.