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US hits Russia with new round of sanctions

Russia's deputy foreign minister, meanwhile, is insisting the blowback will “be painful for Washington.”
Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends in St. Petersburg, on April 24, 2014.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends in St. Petersburg, on April 24, 2014.

The Obama administration Monday ordered a new round of sanctions against the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle” as pro-Russian forces have showed no signs of backing down in eastern Ukraine.

The Department of Treasury said it was targeting seven Russian government officials, including two Putin confidants. Those individuals will be subject to a U.S. visa ban and asset freeze. Seventeen Russian companies will also be subject to an asset freeze.

The White House also said the U.S. will prohibit export licenses for any high-technology items that could strengthen Moscow’s military capabilities. Existing export licenses could also be rescinded.

“In the April 17 Geneva Joint Statement, Russia agreed to take concrete steps to deescalate the situation in Ukraine, but has thus far utterly refused to do so," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen in a statement. "From the very outset of Russia's illegitimate and unlawful actions in Ukraine, we have been clear: The United States, acting on its own and alongside our international partners, will impose increasing costs on Russia if it persists in its efforts to destabilize Ukraine and will hold Russia accountable for its provocative actions."

Among those affected by the new sanctions is Putin ally Igor Sechin, president of state oil company Rosneft and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak.

Monday’s sanctions were the third such round the U.S. imposed since Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea region of Ukraine. Growing unrest in the area has since ensued, with pro-Russian separatists taking over government buildings, including police headquarters in Ukraine.

The west and Ukraine believe Moscow is organizing the unrest.  

Earlier in the day, Obama – speaking in the Philippines – said that goal of the new round of sanctions was “not to go after Mr. Putin personally." The goal, he said “is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he’s engaging in Ukraine could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul.”

Obama also said: "We are keeping in reserve additional steps that we could take should the situation escalate further," admitting he did not know how significant of an impact U.S. actions have been so far.

Additional European Union leveled sanctions against Russia are expected to be announced in the near future.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov criticized the sanctions, telling Interfax news agency that the blowback will “be painful for Washington.” He added “We will reply of course. We never hid that we have the opportunities for such a response and we have a wide range of measures to implement.”