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Russia Says US Bank Blocking Embassy Money Transfer

Russia has accused U.S. banking giant J. P. Morgan of illegally blocking a cash transfer from its embassy in Kazakhstan to a Russian company.

A ministry statement calls J.P. Morgan's move "unacceptable, illegal and absurd" and warns the blockage will "have consequences" for the U.S. embassy in Russia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry linked the blockage to U.S. sanctions slapped on Moscow for its seizure of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials or J. P. Morgan.

The U.S. Congress Tuesday approved the sanctions announced by President Barack Obama last month and also gave final approval to $1 billion in loan guarantees to the Ukrainian government.

The White House says President Obama welcomes Congress' approval of the sanctions and the loan, saying the money will provide crucial support to Ukraine.

Also Tuesday, the Russian energy monopoly Gazprom, which supplies much of Ukraine's natural gas, announced a 40 percent increase in the price of gas sold to Ukraine.

European consumers receive about one-quarter of their gas from Gazprom, with most of those supplies delivered through Soviet-era pipelines running through Ukraine to the West.

In Brussels, NATO ordered an official end to civilian and military cooperation with Russia. NATO foreign ministers said in a joint statement, that they do not recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea and urged Moscow to take "immediate" steps to comply with international law.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen left the door open for future diplomatic discussions that could lead to an easing or resolution of the standoff.

Also Tuesday, Ukraine's parliament voted to disarm unofficial paramilitary ultra-nationalist groups that analysts say played a major role in the February overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.

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