Russia has accused the European Union of a "complete lack of understanding" of Ukraine's domestic politics, as the EU released the names of 15 new targets of sanctions due to their roles in the Ukraine crisis.
Russia's foreign ministry said Tuesday the EU sanctions were a "direct invitation for local Neo-Nazis" to continue their lawless acts in the southeast.
"If this is how someone in Brussels hopes to stabilize the situation in Ukraine, it is obvious evidence of a complete lack of understanding of the internal political situation ... and a direct invitation for the local neo-Nazis to continue to conduct lawlessness and reprisals against the peaceful population of the southeast,'' the foreign ministry said in a statement. "Are they not ashamed?''
Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said separately that U.S. and EU sanctions were "an absolutely counterproductive, trite measure that will force the already critical situation in Ukraine into a dead end,'' state-run news agency RIA reported.
The United States and the EU issued targeted travel bans and asset freezes Monday. The list released by the EU Tuesday includes Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of Russia's armed forces. The seven officials and 17 companies targeted by the U.S. include President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to Crimea, the chief of the service protecting the Russian president and the head of Russia’s largest state-owned oil producer.
The Kremlin is promising a "painful" response.
Japan on Tuesday said it would also deny visas to 23 Russians as part of its sanctions against Moscow for "infringing" on Ukraine's sovereignty. It did not identify those affected.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon says Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu assured Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Russian forces will not invade eastern Ukraine.
The two spoke by telephone on Monday, with Hagel wanting clarification on Russia's intentions. Shoigu told Hagel that Russian troops had returned to barracks after conducting exercises on the Ukrainian border. But a NATO official told reporters Tuesday that NATO has seen no sign that the troops are withdrawing.
A Pentagon spokesman said Hagel emphasized how dangerous the situation is, and that Ukraine has the right to preserve law and order inside its borders.
Hagel also asked for Russian help in freeing seven European inspectors held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Pro-Russian gunmen took control of government buildings in the city of Kostyantynivka on Monday. Separatists are now in control of Ukrainian government buildings in at least 11 eastern and southern cities. They are demanding referendums on whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
A similar vote in Crimea last month led to Russia's annexation of that Ukrainian peninsula.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters