President Obama Announces New Toughest Sanctions Against Russia Over Ukraine

The Obama administration expanded sanctions against Russia targeting two banks, two energy companies, Ukraine separatists and defense companies.

Obama imposed the biggest package of U.S. economic sanctions yet on Russia on Wednesday. Photo: Senator Chris Coons/Flickr

Obama imposed the biggest package of U.S. economic sanctions yet on Russia on Wednesday. Photo: Senator Chris Coons/Flickr

The U.S. President announced Wednesday his decision to impose new stricter sanctions against Russia for its involvement in Ukraine and other foreign policy moves in response to several international concerns across the Middle East.

“Given its continued provocations in Ukraine, today I have approved a new set of sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies and financial institutions,” President Obama announced during a brief statement in the White House briefing room today.

“I’ve repeatedly made it clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine that Russia must urge separatists to release their hostages and support a ceasefire that Russia needs to pursue internationally mediated talks and agree to meaningful monitors on the border – I’ve made this clear directly to Mr. Putin,” he said. “So far, Russia has failed to take any of the steps that I mentioned.”

The penalties announced by the White House were broad in scope, targeting two major Russian energy firms, a pair of powerful financial institutions, eight arms firms and four individuals.

The targeted companies include two major Russian energy firms: Novatek, the country’s largest independent natural gas producer, and Rosneft, Russia’s largest petroleum company and third largest gas producer.

Among other targeted institutions are two influential banks Gazprombank and Vnesheconombank, or VEB, a state-owned bank that acts as payment agent for the Russian government. They will not be able to get new medium- and long-term financing in the United States, senior administration officials told reporters in a conference call.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today imposed what it called “a broad-based package of sanctions on entities in the financial services, energy and arms or related materiel sectors of Russia, and on those undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty or misappropriating Ukrainian property.”

The sanctions were expanded in consultation with European allies, Obama said, noting that though the U.S. prefers diplomatic solutions, “we have to see concrete actions and not just words that Russia in fact is committed to trying to end this conflict.”

European leaders, which have a far deeper economic relationship with Russia than the U.S., were more restrained, ordering investment and development banks on the continent to suspend financing agreements with Moscow.

Until now, the U.S. and Europe have limited their sanctions on Europe to travel bans and asset freezes aimed at individuals and entities, including some with close ties to Putin.

Earlier this year, the United States and Europe imposed a range of sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea this spring and massing of troops along its eastern border with Ukraine. The earlier sanctions included asset freezes and travel bans, reports CNN News.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking in Brasilia, said the sanctions would damage U.S. energy companies, and bring relations with Russia to a “dead end.”

“They generally have a boomerang effect and, without a doubt, in this case, are driving the Russian-U.S. relations into a stalemate and seriously damaging them,” he said, according to a Kremlin transcript of his remarks to reporters on a visit to Brazil.

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