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US, EU Impose More Sanctions On Russia For Actions in Ukraine

  • Zlatica Hoke

The United States and European Union have imposed more sanctions against Russia, saying Moscow has failed to fulfill its commitment to work on defusing tensions in eastern Ukraine. The West is accusing Russia of instigating rebellion by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, with a goal of destabilizing the country. U.S. and EU officials warn of additional sanctions if Russia does not abide by the agreement reached in Geneva earlier this month.

The new sanctions target government officials and companies close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki saud the sanctions also restrict licenses for certain U.S. exports to Russia.

"We've consistently felt that there are a range of officials with close ties to President Putin who have supported these illegal acts in Ukraine that we can target here," said Psaki.

British Foreign Minister William Hague accused Russia of fueling bloodshed in eastern Ukraine.

"The deplorable shooting today of the mayor of Kharkiv [a city in eastern Ukraine] is another sign of the violence being used against those who have opted to support a united Ukraine," said Hague.

In Brussels, representatives of 28 EU nations met to enact additional sanctions on Moscow for failing to abide by the Geneva agreement. A spokeswoman for the European Commission, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, said the EU diplomats are also discussing a third wave of sanctions targeting Russian banking, energy and other key economic sectors.

"Here and now, we're in a situation where there is no de-escalation, so we are currently considering additional measures such as asset freezing and travel bans to be the appropriate level of response at this point in time," said Hansen.

Analysts say nothing short of crippling economic sanctions can stop Moscow at this time. Freedom House director David Kramer said the current sanctions are too weak.

"I think that the sanctions need to be tougher, harder hitting -- it needs to be against sectors of the Russian economy. That is going to cause pain particularly in Europe, less so in the United States, and I think that the list [of sanctioned individual and entities] that was released Monday by the Obama administration indicates a sensitivity to the difficulty of coordinating this with the Europeans. President [Barack] Obama in Asia has made it clear that he wants the U.S. and the EU to present a united front," said Kramer.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble Monday called on European countries to stand united and firm in the face of the Ukrainian crisis.

"The most important reaction is that Europe sticks together. And nobody should underestimate the decisiveness of Europe. We do not want to have any escalation, we want cooperation. But if we are asked for, we stand firm,” said Schaeuble.

In Moscow, President Putin sought to reassure Russian politicians that the country's military will not be hurt by losing longtime cooperation with the Ukrainian military industry. He said Ukrainian military specialists have already been offered jobs in Russia's defense industry.

"They will get decent salaries and apartments. You will receive all of the budget money necessary for that. The process has already begun,” said Putin.

Meanwhile, the Russian economy, already faltering before the Ukrainian crisis, appears to be declining further, with its currency at an all-time low, its stock market in a sharp decline, and investors withdrawing lucrative investments from the country's economy.