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New Western Sanctions to Target Russian Defense Industry

Russian servicemen drive armoured personnel carriers on the outskirts of the city of Belgorod near the Russian-Ukrainian border, April 25, 2014.
The U.S. says new Western economic sanctions against Russia for its involvement in Ukraine will target Moscow's defense industry and companies with close links to President Vladimir Putin.

White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told Sunday news shows in the U.S. that starting this week the latest sanctions would exert "additional pressure" on the corporate officials closest to Putin and the companies they control.

Blinken said high technology exports to the defense firms would be targeted and predicted that "all of this together is going to have an impact."

The increased sanctions are the latest attempt by the U.S. and its European allies to try to force Putin to curb Russia's role in eastern Ukraine and pull back its military forces from near the Russian border with Ukraine. Earlier sanctions targeted some banking activities and other political and corporate officials close to Putin.

Some of the officials targeted in the first sanctions announced last month, at the time Russia was annexing Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, said they were honored to be singled out by the U.S. and its allies.

Whether the sanctions are having a direct effect on the Russian economy is hard to determine. The Russian economy had been weakening even before Russia's stalemate with the West over Ukraine evolved, with growth expected this year to be negligible. Blinken said that Moscow's financial markets have dropped 22 percent since the beginning of the year, the ruble is at all-time low and investors have withdrawn $70 billion from the Russian economy.

President Barack Obama said at a news conference in Malaysia that the consequences for Russian involvement in Ukraine will continue to increase if its "provocation" is not ended.

Some Republican lawmakers have criticized the sanctions as too weak to force Putin to alter his Ukraine policies.

Senator Bob Corker pushed for sanctions that send "shock waves into the economy," particularly against four of Russia's largest banks and Gazprom, the country's state-owned natural gas company.