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Obama Slaps Toughest Sanctions Yet on Russia

  • Mary Alice Salinas

President Obama says the United States is hitting key Russian sectors with new sanctions for its role in the Ukraine conflict. The U.S. leader accuses Russia of violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and failing to take steps to end the crisis.

Obama says he and European leaders have repeatedly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the flow of fighters and weapons across the border into Ukraine, to urge pro-Russian separatists to release hostages, agree to a cease-fire and enter mediated talks.

Instead, Obama says, President Putin has increased support for separatists, a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Given its continued provocations in Ukraine, today I have approved a new set of sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies and financial institutions,” says Obama.

The new sanctions target parts of Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors. They include freezing the assets of several Russian defense companies and blocking new financing to major energy companies, like Novatek and Rosneft. They also hit eight Russian firms that produce weaponry, including small arms, mortar shells and tanks.

“These sanctions are significant, but they are also targeted, designed to have the maximum impact on Russia while also limiting the effects on American companies or those of our allies,” says Obama.

The White House says it approved the sanctions after consulting closely with its European partners, who also are considering tougher measures against Russia.

The U.S. announcement comes amid Pentagon reports that Russia has increased its troop presence along the Ukraine border to at least 10,000, up from about 1,000 troops last month.

“What we are expecting is that the Russian leadership will see once again that its actions in Ukraine have consequences, including a weakening Russian economy and increasing diplomatic isolation,” says Obama.

One senior administration official describes the sanctions package as a “broad, flexible and potent” tool. And the official warned it could be used to add more pressure on Russia, if it fails to take concrete steps to end the crisis.

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