US, EU slap sanctions on top Russian officials over Crimea

US, EU slap sanctions on top Russian officials over Crimea

The US and the EU today imposed sanctions on a number of top Russian officials, including presidential aides, and lawmakers for their alleged actions in Crimea that violated Ukraine's sovereignty, worsening the most serious East-West crisis since the Cold War.

The White House announcement came as US President Barack Obama in an executive order imposed sanctions related to Russia's incursion into Ukraine.

The sanction was also imposed on former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

"The US also will seek to hold accountable individuals who use their resources or influence to support or act on behalf of senior Russian government officials," the White House said.

"We recognise that the Russian leadership derives significant support from, and takes action through, individuals who do not themselves serve in any official capacity. Our current focus is to identify these individuals and target their personal assets, but not companies that they may manage on behalf of the Russian state," it said.

The announcement came shortly after Crimea's parliament today declared the region an independent state after a referendum held yesterday.

Earlier in the day, the European Union announced travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people they have linked to the unrest in Crimea.

EU Foreign Ministers today unveiled travel bans and asset freezes against 13 Russian officials and eight Ukrainian officials from Crimea.

It did not identify those targeted, but US officials said the EU list would be announced publicly tomorrow and contained some overlap with its own measures.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius tweeted that there would be "more EU measures in (a) few days."

The new executive order authorises US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to work with Secretary of State John Kerry to impose sanctions on "any individual or entity that operates in the Russian arms industry, and any designated individual or entity that acts on behalf of, or that provides material or other support to, any senior Russian government official", it said.

The sanctions are intended to "impose costs on named individuals who wield influence in the Russian government and those responsible for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine," the White House said.

"We stand ready to use these authorities in a direct and targeted fashion as events warrant," it added.

In response to the Russian government's actions contributing to the crisis in Ukraine, this new order lists seven Russian government officials who are being designated for sanctions.

The officials named in the list were Vladislav Surkov, Sergey Glazyev (both aides to President Vladimir Putin), Leonid Slutsky, Andrei Klishas, Valentina Matviyenko, Dmitry Rogozin, and Yelena Mizulina. 
Reiterating that a diplomatic solution is the preferred option, US President Barack Obama today warned Russia of more sanctions if it went ahead and annexed the Ukrainian province of Crimea, even as he sent Joe Biden to Europe to rally support against the Russian action.

"I have signed a new executive order that expands the scope of our sanctions. As an initial step, I'm authorising sanctions on Russian officials, entities operating in the arms sector in Russia, and individuals who provide material support to senior officials of the Russian government. And if Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions," Obama said.

"We're continuing our close consultations with our European partners, who today in Brussels moved ahead with their own sanctions against Russia. Tonight, Vice President (Joe) Biden departs for Europe, where he will meet with the leaders of our NATO allies, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania," Obama told White House reporters today morning.

Obama announced he would be himself travelling to Europe next week.

"Our message will be clear. As NATO allies, we have a solemn commitment to our collective defence, and we will uphold this commitment," said the US President.

"We'll continue to make clear to Russia that further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world," he said.

The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia's diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy, he added.

"Going forward, we can calibrate our response based on whether Russia chooses to escalate or to de-escalate the situation," Obama said moments after he announced a series of sanctions against Russian officials for violating the sovereignty of Ukraine.

Obama said he believes there's still a path to resolve the situation diplomatically in a way that addresses the interests of both Russia and Ukraine.

That includes Russia pulling its forces in Crimea back to their bases, supporting the deployment of additional international monitors in Ukraine and engaging in dialogue with the Ukrainian government, which has indicated its openness to pursuing constitutional reform as they move forward towards elections this spring, he noted. 
"But throughout this process, we're going to stand firm in our unwavering support for Ukraine. As I told Prime Minister Yatsenuk last week, the US stands with the people of Ukraine and their right to determine their own destiny.

"We're going to keep working with Congress and our international partners to offer Ukraine the economic support that it needs to weather this crisis and to improve the daily lives of the Ukrainian people,"Obama asserted.

Reiterating that the future of Ukraine must be decided by the people of Ukraine, he said that means Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected and international law must be upheld. And so Russia's decision to send troops into Crimea has rightly drawn global condemnation.

From the start, the US has mobilised the international community in support of Ukraine, to isolate Russia for its actions and to reassure our allies and partners, he said.

"We saw this international unity again over the weekend when Russia stood alone in the UN Security Council defending its actions in Crimea," he noted.

Referring to the call to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Obama said the referendum in Crimea was a clear violation of Ukrainian constitution and international law, and it will not be recognised by the international community.

Today he announced a series of measures that will continue to increase the cost on Russia and on those responsible for what is happening in Ukraine.

"As authorised by the executive order I signed two weeks ago, we are imposing sanctions on specific individuals responsible for undermining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and government of Ukraine. We're making it clear that there are consequences for their actions," he said.

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