Monday, July 28, 2014

Obama announces sanctions on Russian officials

By Nedra Pickler, Associated Press

Published: Mon, March 17 12:00 a.m. MDT

 President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine, Monday, March 17, 2014, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington. The president imposed sanctions against Russian officials, including advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for their support of Crimea's vote to secede from Ukraine.

President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine, Monday, March 17, 2014, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington. The president imposed sanctions against Russian officials, including advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for their support of Crimea's vote to secede from Ukraine.

( Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — In the most comprehensive sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War, President Barack Obama on Monday froze the U.S. assets of seven Russian officials, including top advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for their support of Crimea's vote to secede from Ukraine.

Obama said he was moving to "increase the cost" to Russia, and he warned that more people could face financial punishment.

"If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions," Obama said. He added in a brief statement from the White House that he still believes there could be a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and that the sanctions can be calibrated based on whether Russia escalates or pulls back in its involvement.

The Treasury Department also is imposing sanctions on four Ukrainians — including former President Viktor Yanukovych and others who have supported Crimea's separation — under existing authority under a previous Obama order.

"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," Obama said.

Senior administration officials also said they are developing evidence against individuals in the arms industry and those they described as "Russian government cronies" to target their assets.

The administration officials said Putin wasn't sanctioned despite his support of the Crimean referendum because the U.S. doesn't usually begin with heads of state. But the officials, speaking to reporters on a conference call on the condition they not be quoted by name, say those sanctioned are very close to Putin and that the sanctions are "designed to hit close to home."

The U.S. announcement came shortly after the European Union announced travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people they have linked to the unrest in Crimea. Obama administration officials say there is some overlap between the U.S. and European list, which wasn't immediately made public. Biden was heading to Europe Monday and Obama plans to go next week. The president said that demonstrating a "solemn commitment to our collective defense" as NATO allies will be at the top of the agenda.

The sanctions were expected after residents in Crimea voted overwhelmingly Sunday in favor of the split. Crimea's parliament on Monday declared the region an independent state. The administration officials say there is some concrete evidence that some ballots for the referendum arrived pre-marked in many cities and "there are massive anomalies in the vote." The officials did not say what that evidence was.

The United States, European Union and others say the action violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law and took place in the strategic peninsula under duress of Russian military intervention. Putin maintained that the vote was legal and consistent with the right of self-determination, according to the Kremlin.

The administration officials said they will be looking at additional sanctions if Russia moves to annex Crimea or takes other action. Those targeted will have all U.S. assets frozen and no one in the United States can do business with them under Obama's order.

"Today's actions send a strong message to the Russian government that there are consequences for their actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including their actions supporting the illegal referendum for Crimean separation," the White House said in a statement.

"Today's actions also serve as notice to Russia that unless it abides by its international obligations and returns its military forces to their original bases and respects Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the United States is prepared to take additional steps to impose further political and economic costs," the statement said.

Administration officials say those Obama targeted also are key political players in Russia also responsible for the country's tightening of human rights and civil liberties in the country. Obama's order targets were:

— Vladislav Surkov, a Putin aide

— Sergey Glazyev, a Putin adviser

— Leonid Slutsky, a state Duma deputy

— Andrei Klishas, member of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation

— Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council

— Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation.

— Yelena Mizulina, a state Duma deputy

The four newly targeted by the Treasury Department are:

— Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine for Russia and has supported the dispatch of Russian troops into Ukraine

— Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of Crimea separatist group Ukrainian Choice and a close friend of Putin

— Sergey Aksyonov, prime minister of Crimea's regional government

— Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament

Associated Press writer Nancy Benac contributed to this report. Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nedrapickler

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1. worf
Mcallen, TX,
March 17, 2014

Obama blew it when he took away the missile defenses, and downsized our military.

Who would stop Russia from taking all of Europe?

Should have listened to Mitt.

2. Thidder
MAPLETON, UT,
March 17, 2014

I am sure these Russians are just quaking in their boots. Just think we are freezing their access to their petty cash funds. Want to witness a great nation in decline, follow Obama and his weak-knee approach. The U.S. now speaks softly and carries a wet noodle as punishment. A sad day for freedom, a great day for Obama.

3. G-Day-M8
WVC, UT,
March 17, 2014

I'm not sure why Obama/Kerry can interfere and aid in the disrupting of the pro Russian Ukraine regime and the installation of the Pro Nazi regime and then turn around and punish Russia for trying to protect its own interest without incurring some very serious consequences to all peace on the planet and especially place the US in a no win situation.

It seams that Obama has been baiting the Russians into war with the Syrian crisis and now in the Ukraine.

Where is the wisdom and restraint that should prevail?

4. Irony Guy
Bountiful, Utah,
March 17, 2014

Suggestions? Should we defend the poor people of Crimea--90% Russians--against their obvious and overwhelming desire to be part of their own nation again? What happened to the principle of self-determination? What difference does it make if Crimea joins Russia again? Most of the province was leased by Russia anyway. This whole discussion is ridiculous.

5. CHS 85
Sandy, UT,
March 17, 2014

@worf

What would Mr. Romney have done to prevent Russia from taking Crimea? I see you that are a hawk who wants to go to war. You ready to pick up a rifle? You ready to send your sons to fight in another war in a far away land?

@Thiddler

What do you want the President to do? Do you expect a full-scale military invasion?

So many arm-chair, Monday morning conservatives out there with no actual ideas - just criticism. Let's hear your plans besides "we hate Obama" and "let's go to war."