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Obama says Crimea separation vote would break law

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm •  Published: March 6, 2014
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Crimea is a peninsula that hosts a major Russian navy base and is historically and culturally a Russian stronghold.

The visa bans will be imposed immediately and come in addition to an earlier State Department decision to deny U.S. entry to those involved in human rights abuses related to political oppression in Ukraine. Officials would not say whether Yanukovych was a target of the visa ban or the sanctions.

The sanctions plan, outlined in an executive order, lays the legal groundwork for the Treasury Department to impose financial penalties on offenders. The aim is clearly to punish the separatist movement in Crimea as well as Russia for its decision to send military forces there.

Specifically, the sanctions would target people who undermine Ukraine's democracy and new government; threaten the country's peace, security, stability and sovereignty; are linked to misappropriations of government assets; and try to assert governmental authority over any part of Ukraine without the consent of Kiev. They would also prohibit U.S. persons from doing business with those who have been sanctioned.

Congress has been rushing to impose hard-hitting sanctions on Russia in response to its takeover of Crimea, hoping Europe will follow the lead of the United States in upping the pressure on Putin's government.

The U.S. sanctions push represents a rare case of broad agreement among the Obama administration and Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress. But they all are also united in their concern that American economic penalties will mean little without the participation of European countries with far deeper commercial relations with Russia.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, welcomed the sanctions and said the Ohio Republican is "committed to working with the administration to give President Obama as many tools as needed to put President Putin in check as well as prevent Russia from infringing on the sovereignty of any of its other neighbors."

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, called the new penalties "a positive first step" that needs to be coupled with similar sanctions from Europe to underscore the costs — diplomatic and economic — of rejecting Ukraine's sovereignty.

"I hope that Russia can be dissuaded from further aggression and can be walked back from its perilous course," Schiff said. "But if not, the U.S. and its allies must be prepared to use all of the diplomatic and economic tools at its disposal to deter such reckless conduct."

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Jakes reported from Rome. Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.

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