The White House announced sanctions Monday against seven top Russian officials with links to President Vladimir Putin, including freezing their assets and banning them from obtaining U.S. visas.
It also threatened to impose more economic sanctions on key sectors of Russia's economy if there is evidence of further Kremlin involvement in the unrest in eastern Ukraine.
The Associated Press reports:
"The White House says it is prepared to 'impose still greater costs' if Russia continues its provocations in Ukraine.
"In addition to the sanctions, the U.S. is revoking export licenses for high-technology items that it says could contribute to Russia's military capabilities."
The U.S. Treasury Department released a statement from Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen in which he says:
"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. 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."
Cohen said the seven targeted officials include two key members of the Russian leadership's inner circle.
Reuters reports that Russia's Volga Group, one of the entities targeted by the sanctions, says Washington's measures are "politically motivated statements and decisions." (Update at 10:40 a.m. ET)
Here's our original post:
President Obama on Monday confirmed that the United States and the European Union were planning new economic sanctions against Russia for Moscow's alleged involvement in eastern Ukraine.
Speaking in the Philippines, where Obama is visiting as part of an Asia-Pacific tour, he said the sanctions are not aimed directly at Russian President Vladimir Putin, but are intended to "change the calculus" on the effects any new moves by the Kremlin might have on the Russian economy. The full list of new sanctions was expected to be announced later Monday.
According to The AP:
"Obama said the targets of the sanctions would include high-technology exports to Russia's defense industry. The full list of targets will be announced by officials in Washington later Monday and are also expected to include wealthy individuals close to Putin.
"The European Union is also planning more sanctions, with ambassadors from the bloc's 28 members to meet Monday in Brussels to add to the list of Russian officials who have been hit by asset freezes and travel bans."
Meanwhile, on the ground in eastern Ukraine, armed militants have seized yet another government building
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Donetsk that "masked separatists armed with automatic weapons stormed the main government building in Kostyantynivka, taking over city hall and other administrative offices. The town is near Slovyansk, where separatists are holding European military monitors captive."
The building houses the City Hall and the City Council in Kostyantynivka, just 100 miles from the Russian border, the AP reports. The news agency says the building was seized by masked men armed with automatic weapons and that about 15 armed men, some wearing the insignia of the pro-Russia movement, are now guarding the building.
Pro-Russian separatists also control government and police buildings in 10 other cities, Soraya reports, and are demanding a referendum on whether to secede from Ukraine.
Russian and Ukrainian media are also reporting that the mayor of Kharkov — Ukraine's second-largest city — was shot in the back while bathing at a spa. He has undergone surgery. A spokeswoman said the mayor's wounds are considered life-threatening.
On Sunday, the pro-Russian rebels paraded Western military observers as hostages, according to The Wall Street Journal:
"The self-appointed, pro-Russia rebel mayor of Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, trotted out seven Western military inspectors from Germany, Poland, Denmark, Sweden and the Czech Republic and their translator, all seized late Friday at a makeshift checkpoint in nearby Kramatorsk. One of the inspectors was later released.
"The inspectors are members of their home countries' militaries and part of an inspection team that arrived in Ukraine under an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe pact called the Vienna Document, which sets out guidelines for exchanging military information and hosting inspections. They aren't part of the OSCE special monitoring mission, which is made up of civilians and also operates in southeast Ukraine."