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EU, US sanctions against Russia target Putin cronies

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-29

The US and EU levied new sanctions on members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and 17 companies Monday over the Ukraine crisis. Russia has vowed to respond with measures that will be "painful" for Washington.

The new penalties were a response to what the West has said was Russia’s failure to live up to commitments it agreed to under an international accord aimed at ending the dispute.

The White House, which was first to announce its sanctions, said Russia’s involvement in the recent violence in eastern Ukraine is indisputable and warned that the US and its partners were prepared to impose deeper penalties if Russia’s provocations continue.

European powers have been working in tandem with the US and the rest of the G7 group of leading economies, which agreed over the weekend to impose new sanctions on Russia.

While the US issued a statement naming the seven Russian government officials and the 17 companies that will be hit by the new sanctions, the EU said only that 15 more Ukrainians and Russians have been added to its punitive list.

A statement said: "15 additional persons responsible for actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence will be targeted with a travel ban and freeze of their assets within the EU."

The names of those hit by the new sanctions were published in the EU's official journal on Tuesday and bring to 48 the number of people affected by the measures.

Several of those sanctioned were involved with Russia's annexation and the subsequent administration of Crimea, including Oleg Belaventsev, identified as the head of the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea”; Oleg Savelyev, minister for Crimean affairs and responsible for its integration into the Russian Federation; and Sergei Menyailo, acting governor of the annexed Crimean city of Sevastopol.

Others made the EU list for leading separatist activities in Ukraine's east, including the self-proclaimed leaders of the "Donetsk Republic", Denis Pushilin and Andriy Purgin.

Moscow on Tuesday accused the EU of "doing Washington's bidding" by issuing new sanctions and said it should be "ashamed".

"Instead of forcing the Kiev clique to sit down at the negotiating table with the southeast of Ukraine over the future makeup of the country, our partners are doing Washington's bidding with new unfriendly gestures towards Russia," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement, adding: "Are you not ashamed?"

Putin cronies targeted

Among those targeted by the new US sanctions was Igor Sechin, the president of state oil company Rosneft, who has worked for Russian President Vladimir Putin since the early 1990s.

Sechin was seen as the mastermind behind the 2003 legal assault on private oil company Yukos and its founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who at the time was Russia’s richest man. The most lucrative parts of Yukos were taken over by Rosneft, making it Russia’s largest company. Rosneft has a major partnership deal with ExxonMobil.

Among the politicians who have been targeted by the new US sanctions are Aleksei Pushkov, the Kremlin-connected head of Russian parliament’s lower house; Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak; and a deputy chairman of the State Duma, Ludmila Ivanovna Shvetsova.

Military leaders who have been sanctioned include Valery Vasilevich Gerasimov, chief of staff of Russia's armed forces, and Lt. Gen. Igor Sergun, identified as head of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency.

Sergei Chemezov, another longtime Putin ally, was also on the US list. The White House said Putin has known Chemezov, CEO of the state-owned holding company Rostec, since the 1980’s, when they both lived in the same apartment building in East Germany.

The US is also adding new restrictions on high-tech materials used by Russia’s defence industry that could help bolster Moscow’s military.

Even with the new measures, US President Barack Obama voiced pessimism about whether they would be enough to change Putin’s calculus.

“We don’t yet know whether it’s going to work,” he said.

The company-specific sanctions will affect entities like Transoil, a freight rail operator, and other infrastructure companies involved in electrical and gas pipeline construction. The US also sanctioned two entities it alleges are owned or controlled by Bank Rossiya, which is owned by members of Putin’s inner circle.

Russia reacted by vowing to deliver a “painful” response.

“We will, of course, respond,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency. “We are certain that this response will have a painful effect on Washington.”

The United States and the European Union had earlier targeted Putin's inner circle with visa and asset freezes, and imposed sanctions on a key Russian bank. Western leaders have repeatedly threatened to hit Russia with measures aimed at the wider economy.

US officials, however, have signalled that industry-specific sanctions targeting key areas of the Russian economy such as mining, energy and the financial sectors will only be considered if Russia sends troops across the border into eastern Ukraine.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

 

Date created : 2014-04-28

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