News / Europe

Obama Expands Sanctions Against Russia

President Barack Obama makes a statement on Ukraine, March 20, 2014, on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington.
President Barack Obama makes a statement on Ukraine, March 20, 2014, on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington.
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Thursday morning a series of expanded sanctions against Russia over its annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Speaking on the South Lawn of the White House before a trip to Florida, Obama said the U.S. will impose more sanctions on Russian government officials, including individuals tied to Russia's Crimea efforts, and Bank Rossiya, which handles financial transactions for many in the Russian leadership elite.

Obama Announces Expansion of Sanctions Against Russiai
X
VOA News
March 20, 2014 3:47 PM
President Barack Obama's statement follows EU announcement of further sanctions against Russia following Crimea referendum.
VIDEO: President Obama's statement (Click to enlarge)
​"Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community," Obama said, adding that sanctions will possibly be expanded to impact more areas of the Russian economy.

"Over the last several days, we've continued to be deeply concerned by events in Ukraine,'' Obama said, citing what he called an illegal referendum in Crimea, an illegitimate move to annex the territory Crimea, and "dangerous risks of escalation, including threats" to Ukraine. He cited threats Russia has made to the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.

"These are all choices that the Russian government has made, choices that have been rejected by the international community as well as the government of Ukraine," Obama added.

Washington on Monday announced a first round of sanctions against eleven people, including seven Russians, it said were involved with the Crimean annexation.

In Brussels, meanwhile, European Union leaders added 12 people - all Russian or Crimean - to a list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes.  The new names were not immediately released, but the move raises the number of people subject to EU sanctions to 33.


Russia hits back

Almost immediately after Obama’s announcement, Russia retaliated with "reciprocal sanctions," warning the West it would hit back over “every hostile thrust.”

The sanctions, according to a Foreign Ministry statement, appear to be travel restrictions imposed on senior U.S. officials and lawmakers.

Among those barred from Russia are Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes, senators John McCain, Daniel Coats, Mary Landrieu, Robert Menendez and Harry Reid, as well as House Speaker John Boehner, the Foreign Ministry said.

Reacting to the sanctions, Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement:

"[Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin's military invasion and annexation of Crimea is brutal, totally unacceptable, and sadly returns us to a period of Cold War aggression and hostility. It doesn't have to be this way, but if standing up for the Ukrainian people, their freedom, their hard earned democracy, and sovereignty means I'm sanctioned by Putin, so be it."

Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that “the decision on the reunification of Crimea and Russia is not subject to review.”

EU mulls expanding sanctions

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her nation's parliament Thursday the EU is prepared to move to "Level 3" measures, which would include economic sanctions, if the situation worsens.

The EU has already imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Russian officials deemed responsible for the incursion into Crimea.

Merkel said the Group of Eight forum of leading economies is effectively suspended as long as the diplomatic standoff with Russia continues. Russia has been part of the G-8, along with Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

  • Armed Russian sailors walk near the Ukrainian ship Slavutich in Sevastopol, March 20, 2014.
  • The Ukrainian ship Slavutich is seen blocked by two Russian ships at the harbor in Sevastopol, March 20, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian soldier closes an entrance gate at the air force base in the Crimean town of Belbek, March 20, 2014.
  • Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, stand guard at the top of a chimney located near the naval headquarters, with Russian flags installed nearby, in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.
  • Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk on the territory of the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, March 19, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian naval officer carries his belongings as he walks out of the territory of the naval headquarters, with armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, seen nearby, in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.
  • Members of Crimean self-defense units walk in formation while leaving the territory of the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.
  • Workers put up a new sign reading "State Council of the Crimean Republic" at the parliament building in Simferopol, March 19, 2014.
  • Workers remove old letters from the Crimea parliament building in Simferopol, March 18, 2014.
  • Pro-Russian people watch a live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech on Crimea in Sevastopol, Crimea, March 18, 2014.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said tensions between Ukraine and Russia pose “great risks to the countries themselves and beyond” and urged restraint by all parties.

Speaking after a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ban said he “emphasized that all parties [should] refrain from any hasty or provocative actions that could further exacerbate the already very tense and very volatile situation.”

On Friday, Ban is expected to meet with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv.

Russian Duma approves Crimea annexation

Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a treaty to annex Crimea from Ukraine, taking the Black Sea peninsula a step closer to joining the Russian Federation.

The Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s legislature, is expected to hold a similar vote on Friday, completing ratification of a treaty that President Vladimir Putin signed with Moscow-backed Crimean leaders Tuesday.

“I am certain the passage of these documents will be a turning point in the fate of the multi-ethnic peoples of Crimea and Russia, who are linked by the close ties of historical solidarity,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Duma after presenting the treaty to the chamber.

“The unification of these peoples in one state will promote the well-being and prosperity and serve the interests of Russia,” Lavrov added.

Earlier Thursday, Lavrov blamed the crisis on the West, without specifically mentioning the United States.

He said Western nations were trying to “preserve their global leadership and display their exceptionalism rather than striving to be guided by international law.”

Crimea, with an ethnic Russian majority, voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia in a controversial referendum Sunday that the U.S. and European Union have declared illegal.

Ukraine PM warns of Russia’s designs

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to destabilize Ukraine's presidential election in May and has been preparing for possible military action in eastern Ukraine, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.

In an interview with Reuters, Yatsenyuk, 39, said Putin wants to extend his hold on Ukraine outside the Crimean peninsula into other areas where the majority of the country's Russian speakers live.

FILE - Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy YatsenyukFILE - Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk
x
FILE - Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk
FILE - Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk
“We have clear proof and evidence [that] Russian agencies hired a number of so-called protesters - or actually gangsters - with the task to trigger another cycle of violence in southern and eastern Ukraine,” he said.

Such moves would be part of a plan by Putin, he said, to spark “provocations... and send his military to defend the Russian-speaking minority there.”

Putin has dismissed such suggestions.
          
Yatsenyuk said that to further undermine Ukraine, Putin will try to challenge the validity of the country's presidential election set for May 25.

Western governments hope that vote will help cement political change in Ukraine, but Yatsenyuk said Putin might try to trigger violent clashes to cast doubt on the result.

“Russia wants to cancel the presidential election, divide Ukraine, and the ultimate goal of Russia is to eliminate Ukrainian independence,” Yatsenyuk added.

Ukraine begins drawing back forces

In Crimea, Russia Trumps Ukraine, NATOi
X
Al Pessin
March 20, 2014 8:03 PM
Russian troops and their local allies in Crimea have increased pressure on Ukraine’s military since Russia moved to annex the region - and there has been nothing Ukrainian or Western forces could do about it. From London, VOA’s Al Pessin reports on the military situation in eastern Ukraine and its strategic implications.
In Crimea, Russia Trumps Ukraine, NATO
Ukrainian border guards stationed in Crimea, now under the control of Russia's military, have started redeploying to regions on the mainland, a senior official said on Thursday.

Also about 1,000 civilians have so far left the peninsula, said Pavlo Shysholin, deputy head of the state border guard service, at a news conference.

Plans to evacuate Ukraine's outnumbered military personnel from the Crimean peninsula were announced yesterday by the country's security chief.

Andriy Parubiy - secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council - said Kyiv will seek United Nations support in turning the peninsula into a demilitarized zone. He also said Ukraine is planning to hold military maneuvers "with our allies," but did not elaborate.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said Thursday Moscow will bolster its "military infrastructure" in Crimea to ensure the peninsula is "a worthy representative of the Russian Federation" and "protected against all possible encroachments."

Russia is already handing out passports to Crimea residents.

EU cracks open door for Ukrainian goods

Influential European lawmakers backed a package of nearly 500 million euros ($695 million) in annual trade benefits for Ukraine Thursday, opening the way for duty-free Ukrainian exports into EU countries beginning late April.

Brussels is giving Ukraine unfettered access to the 28-nation bloc's 500 million consumers even before a proposed bilateral free-trade accord comes into force later this year to cement Kyiv's historic shift away from Russia.

The deal was approved by the European Parliament's International Trade Committee. The full European Parliament is due to sign off on the EU's unilateral measures in mid-April.

The move is as an important step to revive the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement which ousted president Viktor Yanukovych rejected in November in favor of financial backing from Moscow.

EU leaders and Ukraine's prime minister are expected sign the political part of the agreement at a two-day summit in Brussels beginning Thursday.

Some reporting by Reuters



You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More