Obama orders new round of sanctions on Russia

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 20, 2014 at 11:13 am •  Published: March 20, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to intensify pressure on Russia, President Barack Obama on Thursday expanded U.S. economic sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine, targeting President Vladimir Putin's chief of staff and 19 other individuals as well as a Russian bank that provides them support.

Obama, warning of more costs to come for the Kremlin if the situation worsens, said he also had signed an executive order that would allow the U.S. to penalize key sectors of the Russian economy, including its huge energy business. Officials said Obama could act on that authority if Russian forces press into other areas of Ukraine, an escalation of the crisis in Crimea.

The president said the latest penalties were the result of "choices the Russian government has made, choices that have been rejected by the international community."

"Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community," Obama said, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House.

European Union leaders, too, said they would expand the number of people targeted with various sanctions and indicated they would cancel an EU-Russia summit. Chancellor Angela Merkel told the German parliament that if the crisis deepens in Crimea and Ukraine, the EU is prepared to move to economic sanctions on a higher level.

Russia retaliated quickly by imposing entry bans on American lawmakers and senior White House officials. Among them were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Obama's senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer and his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, were also targets of the Russian entry bans.

Boehner's office said the speaker was "proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against Putin's aggression."

The new American sanctions hit close advisers to Putin, including Sergei Ivanov, the Russian president's chief of staff and a longtime associate. Also targeted were Arkady Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko, both lifelong Putin friends whose companies have amassed billions of dollars in government contracts.

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

The U.S. sanctions followed a first round of U.S. economic penalties ordered earlier in the week on 11 people the U.S. said were involved in the dispute in Ukraine. Russia moved its military into Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula three weeks ago and has since formally annexed the strategically important region into its borders.