EU, US impose hefty sanctions over Crimea vote
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The United States and the European Union on Monday imposed heavy sanctions on Russian and Ukrainian officials over their support for Crimea’s controversial referendum to break away from Ukraine.
The sanctions came after Crimeans voted overwhelming to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
The referendum has been condemned as illegal by both Kiev and the West with US officials describing the vote as deeply flawed, marked by irregularities.
The joint sanctions target key Russian presidential aides and lawmakers, Crimean "separatist" leaders as well as ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich.
US officials said the moves were intended to strike at "cronies" around Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and to impose a heavy cost for the Crimean referendum and the arrival of Kremlin forces.
"These are clearly people who are very close to President Putin," a US official said on condition of anonymity.
While President Barack Obama announced the freezing of US assets belonging to seven Russian officials – including Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as well as two key aides to Putin – the US Treasury Department said it is sanctioning four Ukrainians, including Yanukovych and the self-appointed Crimean leader, Sergei Aksyonov.
Without releasing any names, the EU said it was imposing travel bans and asset freezes on 13 Russians and eight Ukrainians.
The EU list is expected to be made public on Tuesday while Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius tweeted that there would be "more EU measures in (a) few days."
Separately, Kiev on Monday said it had recalled its ambassador to Moscow “given the situation around Crimea and the need to discuss certain international aspects of this crisis”.
Later Monday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the EU had also begun discussing the need for Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian energy.
Official results from Sunday's disputed referendum showed 96.77 percent of voters in the mostly Russian-speaking region of Ukraine opted to join Russia.
Crimea's lawmakers also declared the Russian ruble the peninsula's second official currency and vowed to disband Ukrainian military units stationed across the region – a move that threatens to inflame the raging security crisis on the European Union's eastern frontier.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)