Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
President Barack Obama makes a statement on Ukraine, Thursday, March 20, 2014, on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, before he departed for Florida. President Barack Obama said the US is levying a new round of economic sanctions on individuals in Russia, both inside and outside the government, in retaliation for the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine. He also said he has also signed a new executive order that would allow the U.S. to sanction key sectors of the Russian economy.. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
US, Europe sanctions target Putin’s inner circle
First Published Mar 20 2014 04:08 pm • Last Updated Mar 20 2014 04:08 pm

WASHINGTON • Raising the stakes in an East-West showdown over Ukraine, President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered economic sanctions against nearly two dozen members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and a major Russian bank that provides them support. He warned that more sweeping penalties against Russia’s robust energy sector could follow.

Russia retaliated swiftly, imposing entry bans on American lawmakers and senior White House officials, among them Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer and the president’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

It’s far more than just a U.S.-Russia dispute. European Union leaders said they, too, were ready to close in on Putin’s associates, announcing plans to impose travel bans and asset freezes on more Russians involved in the territorial clash with Ukraine. The Western aim is twofold: to ratchet up the costs for Putin’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and to head off any further Russian military inroads into Ukraine.

"The world is watching with grave concern as Russia has positioned its military in a way that could lead to further incursions into southern and eastern Ukraine," Obama said, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House.

Thursday’s volleys deepened the confrontation over Ukraine, a standoff that has become one of the biggest political crises in Europe since the Cold War. Putin, rather than backing off as the West warns of costs, has defiantly moved military forces into Crimea, backed a referendum in which the Crimean people overwhelming voted to join Russia and then signed a treaty formally absorbing the strategically important peninsula into Russia.

In Ukraine, pro-Russian forces seized three Ukrainian warships Thursday, and U.S. officials acknowledge privately that there is little chance of Russia giving up Crimea now. The more pressing concern is stopping Putin from pushing into other Ukrainian areas with large ethnic Russian populations. Thousands of Russian troops are currently positioned along Ukraine’s eastern border.

The Pentagon said Russia’s defense minister assured Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that those forces have no intention of crossing into Ukrainian territory and are only in the region to conduct military exercises. The two men spoke by phone for an hour.

The U.S. had received similar assurances from top Kremlin officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, before Russian troops moved into Crimea.

The penalties announced Thursday by the U.S. and Europe build on an initial round of narrower sanctions levied earlier this week. While European officials did not immediately release names, the U.S. listed some of Putin’s closest associates.

Among the 20 individuals sanctioned were Sergei Ivanov, the Russian president’s chief of staff, as well as Arkady Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko, both lifelong Putin friends whose companies have amassed billions of dollars in government contracts.


story continues below
story continues below

Also sanctioned: Bank Rossiya, a private bank that is owned by Yuri Kovalchuk, who is considered to be Putin’s banker.

Putin has not been personally targeted by the first two rounds of U.S. sanctions. In fact, American sanctions on heads of state are rare, largely reserved for instances where the U.S. is seeking a change in government leadership.

Russians have made light of previous U.S. sanctions on individuals, and targeted American lawmakers reacted In like manner on Thursday.

Said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: "I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off."

Obama also signed a new executive order that would allow him to sanction key Russian industries, actions that could have a harsher impact on that country’s economy. Senior administration officials said Russia’s energy, financial services and metals and mining sectors are among the industries that could be targeted.

"Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community," Obama said.

The U.S. has so far acted in conjunction with the European Union, Russia’s largest trading partner. The EU’s close economic ties with Russia gives its penalties more bite, but also leave the alliance more vulnerable if the Kremlin retaliates.

European leaders, meeting in Brussels on Thursday, announced their own plans to scrap an EU-Russia summit scheduled for June. Like Obama, they warned that further provocations by Russia would result in deeper punishments.

"We need to prepare to take further steps and we need to do it together," said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. "A strong Europe is the last thing that Putin wants. He wants to split us up."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that beyond increasing the number of people affected by asset freezes and travel bans — initially 21 politicians and military commanders — the leaders would prepare for possible measures at a higher level, which would include economic sanctions and an arms embargo.

Russia’s economy has already taken a hit during the Crimea crisis. The country’s stock market fell 10 percent this month, potentially wiping out billions. Economists have slashed growth forecasts to zero this year, and foreign investors have been pulling money out of Russian banks.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.