News / Europe

    US Adds New Russia Sanctions to 'Change Behavior' in Ukraine

    FILE - Then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, speaks with his then-Chief of Staff Vyacheslav Volodin during a meeting of officials in Pskov in May 2011. Volodin is on a list of Russian officials facing U.S. sanctions.
    FILE - Then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, speaks with his then-Chief of Staff Vyacheslav Volodin during a meeting of officials in Pskov in May 2011. Volodin is on a list of Russian officials facing U.S. sanctions.
    VOA News
    The United States expanded its sanctions against Russia on Monday, targeting members of President Vladimir Putin's "inner circle" and technology that could be useful to Russia's military, in response to Russia's ongoing involvement in Ukraine.

    President Barack Obama said the U.S. is holding broader sanctions against Russia's economy, such as its banking or defense industry, "in reserve.”

    "The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin personally," Obama said. "The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he is engaging in in Ukraine could have an adverse effect on the Russian economy over the long haul, and to encourage him to actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to diplomatically resolving the crisis in Ukraine."

    A White House statement said: "Since April 17, Russia has done nothing to meet its Geneva commitments and in fact has further escalated the crisis." It also called Moscow's involvement in eastern Ukraine violence "indisputable."

    A senior Russian diplomat has expressed "disgust" at the new round of U.S. sanctions, saying it marked a return to "Cold War" practices.

    In comments posted on the Foreign Ministry's website, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, "We decisively condemn the series of measures that has been announced in an attempt to put sanctions pressure on Moscow."

    And in interviews Monday with Russian media, Rybakov said the latest U.S. measures were based on “completely distorted” ideas of what is happening in Ukraine and vowed that Moscow’s response would be felt “painfully” in Washington.

    The Department of the Treasury is imposing sanctions on seven Russian government officials, including two members of Putin’s inner circle. They will be subject to an asset freeze and a U.S. visa ban.

    Also, 17 companies linked to Putin’s inner circle will be subject to an asset freeze, the statement said.

    The seven include (see the full list of targeted individuals and companies):

    Oleg Belavencev, Russian presidential envoy to the Crimean district and a member of the Russian Security Council;

    Vyacheslav Volodin, first deputy chief of the staff of the presidential executive office;

    Dmitry Kozak, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation;

    Evgeniy Murov, director of the Federal Protective Service of the Russian Federation and an army general;

    Aleksei Pushokov, chairman of the state Duma committee on International Affairs;

    Igor Sechin, president and chairman of the management board for Rosneft, Russia’s leading petroleum company;

    Sergei Chemezov, director general of Rostec, the state corporation for promoting development, manufacturing and export of Russian high-tech industrial products.

    The 17 companies targeted in the sanctions (full list here) include Stroygazmontazh (SGM Group), a gas pipeline construction company, and Transoil, a Russia-based rail freight operator that specializes in the transportation of oil and oil products.

    Notably absent from the sanctions list is Gazprom, Russia’s giant natural gas monopoly, and its CEO, Alexei Miller. A number of observers had predicted Gazprom and its head would be targeted.

    The Department of Commerce also is imposing additional restrictions on 13 of the 17 companies by issuing a license requirement "with a presumption of denial for the export, re-export or other foreign transfer of U.S.-origin items to the companies."
     
    Commerce and the State Department announced a tightened policy to deny export license applications for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russia's military capabilities.

    Those departments also will revoke any existing export licenses that meet these conditions.

    Also on Monday, Canada will impose sanctions on two Russian companies and nine individuals, a government source said.

    The source did not provide names but said the list would be released soon.

    Meanwhile, the Pentagon says U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu by telephone Monday, wanting to know what Russia's intentions are towards Ukraine.

    A Pentagon spokesman says Shoygu assured Hagel that Russian forces will not invade.

    Russian response

    Andrei Belousov, Putin's top economic adviser, said on Monday the new round of U.S. sanctions will have little effect on the country's economy and will only strengthen the resolve of the Kremlin and its allies.

    "The more sanctions there are, the more strongly the elite will consolidate,'' Belousov said.

    "There will probably be some consequences [for the economy] ... but it is unlikely that they will have a serious impact on an operational, annual level,'' he said of the sanctions.

    Belousov added that, in his view, the new sanctions do not give sufficient grounds to change the country's budget rule, which limits government spending.

    Russia's Volga Group, which is on the list of sanctioned companies and controlled by sanctioned owner Gennady Timchenko, claimed on Monday the new U.S. sanctions are not related to events in Ukraine, but are politically motivated.

    EU to impose sanctions


    The European Union reached a preliminary agreement on Monday to impose asset freezes and visa bans on 15 more people as part of expanded sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, diplomats said.

    The officials held responsible for "undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence" will be banned from traveling to the 28-nation bloc and will see their assets there frozen, the EU said in a statement.

    The names of those to be added to the list will not be made public until they are published in the EU's Official Journal on Tuesday.

    The decision taken by the EU governments' ambassadors in Brussels brings the total number of Russians or pro-Russian individuals in Ukraine targeted by the EU's sanctions to 48.

    The EU's European Commission is drawing up a list of tougher economic sanctions that could be imposed on Russia, but the EU is split between countries in favor of stronger action, including Britain, France, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic and the Baltic countries, and those who are reluctant, such as Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Austria, Spain, Portugal and Malta.

    Obama said the measures do not yet include the wider sanctions, such as curbs on the Russian financial and energy sectors, that would do the most serious damage to Russia's economy.

    “We are keeping in reserve additional steps that we could take should the situation escalate further,” Obama said, acknowledging that he did not know if the measures he has ordered so far will work.

    Many Europeans oppose sanctions that would target the economy, because economic sanctions would hurt European economies as well as that of Russia.

    The U.S., being economically tied with Russia to a much lesser degree than Europe, says it would not impose economic sanctions unilaterally.

    However, European leaders were giving more consideration to broad sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy after pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine held seven monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a U.S. official said Monday.

    "We have noticed a distinct uptick in the last three days from major European capitals in continuing to look very hard at sectoral [sanctions] in response to the egregious treatment of the ... monitors in Slovyansk,'' a U.S. official said.

    The OSCE had sent unarmed monitors to try to encourage compliance with a peace deal. The rebels seized them and have been holding them at a fortified redoubt in the town of Slovyansk.


    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned the recent seizure in Ukraine of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and demanded that pro-Russian rebels release them immediately.
     

    Ban said international missions working in Ukraine must be allowed to perform their duties without interference.

    Moscow: Sanctions pointless

    Nevertheless, such measures have done nothing so far to deter Putin, who overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy last month to seize and annex Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and has since massed tens of thousands of troops on the frontier.

    He acted after Ukraine's pro-Russian president was ousted in February by protesters demanding closer links with Europe.

     
    Moscow has in the past shrugged off targeted sanctions like those Obama announced on Monday as pointless.
     
    Washington says armed rebels - who have captured towns and government buildings across eastern Ukraine - are operating under the direction of Kremlin agents.
     
    Russia denies it is involved and says the uprising is a spontaneous response to oppression of Russian speakers by Kyiv.
     
    The rebels took another town on Monday morning, seizing the police headquarters and municipal administration building in  Kostyantynivka, an industrial city in the eastern Donetsk region. Separatists in the province have proclaimed an independent “People's Republic of Donetsk.”
     
    A Reuters photographer at the scene saw about 20 gunmen controlling the administration building.

    Also on Minday, the mayor of Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, is in serious condition after being shot by a sniper.

    Government officials say Hennady Kernes was bicycling on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian city when he was shot in the back by an unidentified gunman.

    Kernes opposed the popular protests in Kiyv that led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. But he has said he does not support pro-Russian separatists who are calling for votes on independence for eastern Ukraine.

    Kharkiv officials say Kernes is in the hospital "fighting for his life."


    At a meeting of eastern Ukrainian leaders and acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk earlier this month, Kernes insisted he does not support the pro-Russia insurgents and backed a united Ukraine.

    Pressure in U.S.

    Obama is under pressure from opposition Republicans at home to move faster on sanctions. But in taking what he described as “calibrated steps”, he has emphasized the need to act in concert with European countries, which have more at stake economically and a more cumbersome process for taking decisions.

    The EU does more than 10 times as much trade with Russia as the U.S. and buys a quarter of its natural gas from Moscow. Most EU decisions require unanimity among member states.

    Western countries say the targeted sanctions are already having an effect on Russia by scaring investors into pulling out capital. The central bank has been forced to raise interest rates to prop up the rouble and Russian firms are finding it more difficult and costly to raise funds.

     
    U.S.Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement Monday: "Today's targeted actions, taken in close coordination with the EU, will increase the impact we have already begun to see on Russia's own economy as a result of Russia's actions in Ukraine and from U.S. and international sanctions.

    "Russian economic growth forecasts have dropped sharply, capital flight has accelerated and higher borrowing costs reflect declining confidence in the market outlook," the statement continued.

    Russian shares dropped on anticipation of the impact of new sanctions. The rouble-denominated MICEX index was down 1.3 percent early on Monday. The cost of insuring Russia's debt against default rose to its highest level since November 2011.
     
    Monday's sanctions build on those imposed over Crimea last month, which were deliberately designed to punish individuals close to Putin without having wider impact on Russia's economy or its trade with the West.

    Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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    by: AAR from: global
    April 30, 2014 4:40 PM
    Time is short........Russian "5th column" and intelligence operatives and "sleeper agents" have been activated and are operating all over Ukraine.... if USA and Western allies really want to take a stand and fight Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine......the time is now! Let us not repeat the mistakes of pre and post WWII and stand by while millions of innocents went to their deaths in the Soviet Gulags.....the eyes of those lost watch us from their unmarked graves in Siberia and the Russian wastelands.....force must be met with force and determination with equal determination!

    by: Alex
    April 29, 2014 5:58 PM
    The last list of new sunctions against Russian officials gives us hope that the US and Europe might not stop and will continue toimpose other more severe sanctions agains Russia, but, nevertheless being incomplete for the time being. Unfortunately, there were forgotten the names of 10 bright Russian oligarchs promoting Putin coming to power in 1999 and, therefore, responcible for the establishment of a totalitarian unfree KGB-like regime in Russia. Among them are primarily Abramovich, Deripaska, Khristenko, Chubais, Usmanov, Michelson, Friedman, Melnichenko, Lisin Mordashev Potanin, Alekperov, Vekselberg. The list might be goes on.

    Alisher Usmanov, the $ 18 billion (40 th place in the list of multi-billioners);
    Leonid Michelson, 16.9 billion (42 th);
    Viktor Vekselberg, 18800000000 (43);
    Vladimir Lisin, 16700000000 (44);
    Mordashov, 15 billion (48);
    Roman Abramovich, 14700000000 (50);
    Mikhail Prokhorov, 13900000000 (55);
    Vladimir Potanin, 13800000000 (58);
    Alekperov, 12400000000 (72);
    Andrei Melnichenko, 12 billion (75).

    If the West will be able to customize the Russian oligarchs against Putin by imposing further sanctions against them, this installed regime will not last long there in Russia. Russian oligarchs should be responsible for all actions of their protege - Putin.

    by: Norma from: England
    April 28, 2014 8:54 PM
    Putin is fast becoming the Hitler of our time. He is behaving just like Hitler did by invading other soverign countries based on flimsey excuses. The world should not be complacent. The UN, EU, - leading world governments need to sit up and take notice...and take action to crush the rise of a Hitler/Putin taking over any country he fancies he can get away with. Perhaps you think this is too far fetched?

    He tested his tactics out a few years ago when he invaded Georgia, but later withdrew his forces. He sent Russian forces into Ukraine's Crimea, taking it over in a military coo using the pretext that the people are historically ethnic Russians and there for Russians. No Mr Putin - they are Ukrainians under the government of the independent sovereign state of Ukraine over which you have no authority! The historic ethnic background of some people within Ukraine is not a legal reason (or otherwise) to justify the illegal war you have started in Ukraine.

    Russia has no legal or other right to invade a neighouring country. And yet again Putin has brazenly also invaded the east of Ukraine....using the same pretext. It will not end there. Historically Ethnic Russians have spread far and wide throughout the region and Putin if allowed to go unhindered will roll his tanks into one country after another. Hitler's plan to controll the world is alive and well and living in Mr. Putin. The international War Crimes Tribunal and other international institutions need to call Mr. Putin to book....and quickly if WW3 is to be avoided. The world should not sit back and cow-tow to these bully boy tactics.

    Action is needed now not later when more countries and millions of their peoples have been subsumed into a police state where ordinary people are too afraid to discent and where corruption is rife and brings poverty to ordinary citizens. This is a war crime and Putin should be arrested and prosecuted if we are to avoid this escalating out of control .
    In Response

    by: TOMMIE GODWIN from: USA
    April 29, 2014 10:48 AM
    You're heads of state in Europe,like noodles Obama carry a wet noodle[words] instead of a large stick [actions].Their favorite noodle is the most feared wet noodle in the world,the sanction noodle.The free world does not have one leader,not one. When it comes to Putin, our heads of state are as as confused as a cat at rush hour on a six lane road trying to cover up his crap. FAIR WARNING WORLD:Obama got noodles.

    by: jnffarrell1 from: Jacksonville FL
    April 28, 2014 7:07 PM
    Next step RICO investigation of money laundering Russian banks.

    by: Johnson Okwu Kamalu from: Port Harcourt, Nigeria
    April 28, 2014 6:58 PM
    Well done! I think US and the EU are in the right direction. Russia should be stopped and not allow to act with impunity. Russia's president is provoking a restart of cold war. But let him have a rethink. I'm surprise that he can so easily forget history: Cold war did not favor Russia and its allies. So mind your business and leave Ukraine alone before it's too late
    In Response

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    April 29, 2014 7:58 AM
    When you see someone beaten in a fight itching for a rematch, he has something up his sleeves. Think of your former president Obasanjo; as a military head of stead he was more jittery than a feather before the wind or a chick before a hawk. When he came back as a civilian president, was he not more daring than any president you have ever had? So if Putin is asking for a repeat of the cold war, then he must have something to surprise the western bloc. However, I can authoritatively tell you that Putin is not the trouble maker here. It's the EU and USA who started the trouble in forcing Kiev to become pro-Europe.

    by: Maxcraft
    April 28, 2014 5:54 PM
    Unbelievable. As an American, I can only apologise to the rest of the world for this exercise in hypocrisy by our country.

    This is simply embarrassing for every American - except our hypocritical, stupid leaders, it seems.

    by: Abwa Takang from: Yaounde Cameroon
    April 28, 2014 4:50 PM
    only God`s intervention will remedy the situation in Russia and it would be preferable if they listen to what God has to say. They can consult a prophet of God in Nigeria ( prophet TB Joshua who can bring God into the issue and settle it peacefull. We must believe God or we perish.
    In Response

    by: Tom Kenny
    April 28, 2014 6:17 PM
    will you listen to this prophet, stop living in fear and just live

    by: Kenneth from: AZ
    April 28, 2014 4:13 PM
    The problem for me is that Obama can't point to anything specific that the Russians are doing in eastern Ukraine. Is he suggesting that they are responsible for the capture of the OSCE monitors? I find that hard to believe. Is he saying the separatists are actually Russian operatives? What? He says they are meddling. How exactly, and how does he know? And, if they are meddling, is their meddling any worse than ours in Kiev? I'm generally a hawkish conservative American, but I'm a little embarrassed by Obama and Kerry on this issue. I think they are blaming Russia for their past.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    April 28, 2014 7:35 PM
    Is it what the US calls "Hashtag Diplomacy" where they haven't a clue on what to do about the Ukraine crisis they helped create, (and since they can't blame Bush, or somebody else, they blame the Russians), for them being impotent and helpless, in negotiating some kind of settlement, in this Ukraine crisis?
    Russia won't negotiate with the Kiev terrorists, and will defend the Russian speaking people, if they are attacked by the government military... (What part of that, doesn't the US understand?)..

    by: Alex
    April 28, 2014 1:53 PM
    Look at the faces of members of the ruling party members and KGB-sts and oligarchs in the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, that are not burdened by mental labor, but having billions in banks of Russia and elsewhere abroad, moving freely across borders and having real estate in Europeand probably in the US. Can these people be negotiated? I do not think so. They are the Russian oligarchs, enjoying all the rights and freedoms abroad, having double, or triple citizenship. To put an end to Putin’s regime, the Western powers should be done away with Russian oligarchs and Putin’s kings men abroad:

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    April 28, 2014 1:52 PM
    Why all this waste of time with a timid approach that you know will never see the light of day nor will it be ever regarded or achieve anything - if it is intended to mean more than just deceive the Ukrainians to think someone is behind them. It's all about making noise, when we know that the US and its European allies set the ball rolling with all the troubles not only in Ukraine but in every part of the world, including all troubles whose names might incite VOA to reject publishing this truth. I wish I could speak for Moscow and say, "to hell with your futile sanctions! USA."
    In Response

    by: Tommie Godwin
    April 29, 2014 12:24 AM
    Puke Hitler Putin owns Noodles Obama.Putin has two cotton fields.One field is Syria and the other one is the Ukraine.Putin has Obama picking his cotton.Noodles Obama is using his wet noodles[words] to punish Hitler Putin.There is no punishment like being beaten with a wet noodle[sanctions].Fair WARNING TO RUSSIA,Obama got noodles,a whole cotton picking bag of noodles.
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