December 18, 2014
US and EU to intensify sanctions against Russia
The United States froze assets and imposed visa bans on seven powerful Russians close to President Vladimir Putin and also sanctioned 17 companies in reprisal for Moscow's actions in Ukraine. European Union governments reached a preliminary agreement on similar sanctions.
Among those sanctioned by the White House were Igor Sechin, head of state energy firm Rosneft, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. A Russian deputy foreign minister was quoted as expressing "disgust" at the announcement.
European Union governments, in turn, reached a preliminary agreement to impose asset freezes and visa bans on 15 more people as part of expanded sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine.
An EU procedure to approve the sanctions does not end until later today but that is seen as a formality. The names of those to be added to the list will not be made public until tomorrow.
The EU has previously imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 33 Russians and Crimeans for their part in Russia's seizure of Crimea.
The US has been much more aggressive in the penalties it has imposed on Russia than has the 28-nation European Union, which depends heavily on Russia for energy. The White House announced it will also deny export licences for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russian military capabilities and will revoke any existing export licences that meet these conditions.
US President Barack Obama also threatened with more sanctions against key sectors of Russian economy if there is further Russian military intervention in Ukraine. "We are keeping in reserve additional steps that we could take should the situation escalate further," Obama said.
The new sanctions add more people and firms to a list announced last month of figures whose assets are frozen and who are denied visas to travel. All the sanctions have been aimed at individuals and businesses.
"The goal is not to go after Mr. Putin personally. The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he's engaging in in Ukraine could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul," Obama said in Manila during a trip to Asia.