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 Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs