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Obama Expands Sanctions on Russians Behind Crimea Takeover

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced further sanctions against Russia for its annexation of of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, triggering a round of Russian sanctions targeting nine U.S. officials and lawmakers.

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Obama said he is penalizing more individuals and a bank involved in Russia's occupation of the Black Sea peninsula. Earlier, the United States limited travel and the economic activity of several key Russians involved in the Crimea takeover.

The president also said he is considering more penalties to entire sectors of the Russian economy, as well as specific individuals. He said those plans are being formulated in conjunction with European allies.

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.

Moscow retaliated against the U.S. sanctions with travel bans on nine Americans, including Republican Senator John McCain, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told VOA that Washington will not allow one country to destroy what he called "the post-World War II order."

Kerry, however, also said he hopes the U.S.-Russian standoff over Ukraine does not affect cooperation on other international issues including Syria, Afghanistan and Iran.

Russian forces effectively took control of Crimea two weeks ago in the wake of the ouster of Ukraine's pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, after months of protests and violence in Kyiv.

The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday named 16 Russians as targets of the new sanctions.

The list includes Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament; Sergei Ivanov, the chief of staff to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Vladimir Yakunin, head of the state-owned company Russian Railways, who is described as a "close confidante" of the Russian leader.

Gennady Timchenko, a founder of Gunvor -- one the world's largest independent commodity trading companies in the energy sector -- also appeared on the list, along with Yuri Kovalchuk, described by U.S. officials as the largest single shareholder in Bank Rossiya. The bank itself also made the sanctions list.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers the European Union is prepared to move to "Level 3" measures, which would include broader economic sanctions, if the crisis worsens.

Ms. Merkel also said the Group of Eight leading economies is effectively suspended as long as the diplomatic standoff with Russia continues. Russia is part of the G8, along with Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

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