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US and Russia engage in tit-for-tat sanctions

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-20

As tensions continued to mount over the Crimea crisis on Thursday, the United States said it would broaden sanctions against Russia, while the Kremlin responded by announcing its own sanctions targeting nine US officials.

US President Barack Obama announced that he would expand sanctions to target more senior officials within Russia’s government, as well as individuals and at least one bank that have given it material support. He also said that he had signed a new executive order expanding the US government’s authority to take measures against economic sectors.

“The United States is today moving, as we said we would, to impose additional costs on Russia,” Obama said, speaking at the White House before leaving on a trip to Florida.

Overall, 20 Russian citizens, several of whom are close to President Vladimir Putin, and the country’s joint-stock Rossiya Bank were singled out for sanctions. The bank, which is based in St. Petersburg, is chaired and partly-owned by Putin advisor Yuri Kovalchuk, whose name was included on the list of those to be sanctioned.

The announcement comes just as Russia’s parliament approved a treaty annexing Crimea, a move that the West has described as an illegitimate infringement of Ukraine’s sovereign territory. The United States imposed a first round of sanctions against Russia on Monday, barring 11 Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean officials and lawmakers from the US and freezing any assets they hold there.

“These are all choices that the Russian government has made, choices that have been rejected by the international community as well as the government of Ukraine,” Obama said.

“This is not our preferred outcome... However, Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community,” he added.

Russia retaliates

Russia swiftly responded by announcing that it would impose its own sanctions targeting nine US officials and lawmakers.

“We have repeatedly warned that sanctions are a double-edged instrument and would hit the United States like a boomerang,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “There must be no doubt: We will respond adequately to every hostile thrust.”

Those on the list included deputy national security advisers Ben Rhodes and Caroline Atkinson, as well as senators John McCain, Harry Reid, Mary Landrieu, Dan Coats and Robert Menendez, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner was also on the list, as was Dan Pfeiffer, a senior advisor to Obama.

Impending EU sanctions

Earlier, European leaders also announced that they were poised expand sanctions against Russia, as they deliberated a list of who to subject to travel bans and asset freezes. A further dozen names are expected to be added to the 21 Russians and Crimeans who already face targeted sanctions that were introduced earlier in the week.

French President François Hollande, meanwhile, said that the European Union would suspend political relations with Russia and had cancelled an EU-Russia summit scheduled for July. The summit, which takes place regularly, was slated to be held in the Russian city Sochi, the site of this year’s winter Olympics and Paralympics.

“If Russia agrees to open discussions, if a de-escalation can be confirmed, we won’t move to other sanctions,” Hollande said. “But if, on the contrary, illegal claims increase, if there are troop operations, if there are threats, then there will be other sanctions. So we move to a new phase, individual sanctions, and we prepare others in case.”

Britain’s David Cameron confirmed names would be added to the asset-freeze and travel-ban list, but did not say how many. Any decision would not become law until it is published in coming days.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-03-20

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