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Obama expands Russian sanctions, says he, Biden going to Europe

March 17, 2014 at 1:18 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Monday expanded sanctions against Russia for its involvement in Ukraine and warned "further provocations will achieve nothing."

The action came after the European Union issued its own sanctions in the wake of Crimea's vote to secede from Ukraine to join Russia.

Election officials said 97 percent of those who voted in Sunday's referendum voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, and Crimea's Parliament Monday petitioned to formalize the request.

European foreign ministers imposed sanctions against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials linked to unrest in the Crimea and U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order expanding sanctions imposed earlier this month.

Ministers and EU officials said the 21 people for starters, mainly political figures involved in the breakaway of Crimea, would face asset freezes and travel bans, the British newspaper the Guardian reported.

Obama followed up "by authorizing the secretary of the treasury, in consultation with the secretary of state, to impose sanctions on named officials of the Russian government, any individual or entity that operates in the Russian arms industry, and any designated individual or entity that acts on behalf of, or that provides material or other support to, any senior Russian government official.

"We have fashioned these sanctions to impose costs on named individuals who wield influence in the Russian government and those responsible for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. We stand ready to use these authorities in a direct and targeted fashion as events warrant," a White House fact sheet stated.

Specifically named were Russian government officials Vladislav Surkov, Sergey Glazyev, Leonid Slutsky, Andrei Klishas, Valentina Matviyenko, Dmitry Rogozin and Yelena Mizulina.

The earlier executive order cited Crimean separatists Sergey Aksyonov and Vladimir Konstantinov, former Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

In remarks in the White House press room Obama said the sanctions "will continue to increase the cost on Russia and on those responsible for what is happening in Ukraine."

Obama said he is in consultations with European allies and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with the leaders of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to show the U.S. commitment to NATO allies. Obama said he plans to travel to Europe next week and "our message will be clear. As NATO allies, we have a solemn commitment to our collective defense, and we will uphold this commitment."

He said he wants to "make clear to Russia that further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its own place in the world."

Obama said he still sees a diplomatic out in the situation if Russia would pull its troops out of Crimea and talk to the Ukrainian government.

The executive order followed a telephone call Sunday between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Obama criticized what he called Russia's violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, a White House readout of the conversation said.

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