U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says Western sanctions imposed on Russia for Moscow's actions in Ukraine are taking an economic toll.
Lew, speaking Tuesday, told a U.S. congressional panel "there has been quite a substantial deterioration" in what he described as Russia's "already weak" economy. "We see it in their stock exchange, we see it in their exchange rate," as well as other economic indicators. He also said the Obama administration is prepared to take further action, if needed, to encourage Moscow's cooperation in easing tensions in eastern Ukraine.
On Monday, the administration slapped travel bans and asset freezes on seven Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin, while the European Union put 15 new names on its list of sanctioned Russian officials.
For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the EU sanctions, saying they would not ease tensions in eastern Ukraine, where armed separatists are seeking a referendum on whether to secede and join Russia.
The West began imposing penalties on Russia last month, after the Russian parliament voted overwhelmingly to annex Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.