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US intensifies sanctions on Russia over Ukraine

A smiley face sticker is seen on a camouflaged armoured personnel carrier (APC) as Ukrainian troops guard a position near the eastern Ukrainian city of Popasna in the Lugansk region on September 12, 2014. (AFP)

The United States hit Russia's largest bank, a major arms maker and arctic, deepwater and shale exploration by its biggest oil companies with new sanctions to punish Moscow for its intervention in Ukraine.

The sanctions, coordinated with similar European Union steps, were triggered by what the West sees as Moscow's recent effort to destabilize eastern Ukraine by backing pro-Russian separatists with troops, heavy arms and cross-border shelling. . They are the latest economic penalties imposed by the West since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March.

The sanctions target companies including Sberbank, Russia's largest bank by assets, and Rostec, a conglomerate that makes everything from Kalashnikovs to cars, by limiting their ability to access the US debt markets.

They also bar US companies from selling goods or services to five Russian energy companies to conduct deepwater, Arctic offshore and shale projects. The Russian firms affected are Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas and Rosneft.

The United States stressed that the sanctions could be removed if Russia, which denies sending troops into eastern Ukraine and arming the separatists, took a series of steps including the withdrawal of all of its forces from its neighbor.

However, a defiant Russian President Vladimir Putin called the new economic penalties "strange," given his backing of peace efforts in eastern Ukraine, and Russia's Foreign Ministry said it would respond quickly with retaliatory measures against what it criticized as another "hostile step."

"It is designed to effectively shut down this type of oil exploration and production activity by depriving these Russian companies of the goods, technology and services that they need to do this work," a senior US official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity said of the US and EU steps.

The US Treasury Department said the sanctions include a ban on US individuals or companies dealing with Rostec, a major Russian technology and defense conglomerate, in debt transactions of more than 30 days maturity.

Assets also were blocked for five state-owned defense technology firms, OAO Dolgoprudny Research Production Enterprise, Mytishchinski Mashinostroitelny Zavod OAO, Kalinin Machine Plant JSC, Almaz-Antey GSKB, and JSC NIIP.

"These steps underscore the continued resolve of the international community against Russia's aggression," US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement. "Russia's economic and diplomatic isolation will continue to grow as long as its actions do not live up to its words."

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Tags:  World  Ukraine  Russia  Unrest  US  EU  





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