WASHINGTON — In the most comprehensive sanctions against Russia since the
end of the Cold War, President Barack Obama on Monday froze the U.S. assets of
seven Russian officials, including top advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for
their support of Crimea’s vote to secede from Ukraine.
The Treasury Department also is imposing sanctions on four Ukrainians —
including former President Viktor Yanukovych and others who have supported
Crimea’s separation — under existing authority under a previous Obama order.
Senior administration officials also said they are developing evidence against
individuals in the arms industry and those they described as “Russian
government cronies” to target their assets.
Obama delivered the statement Monday from the White House, saying, “We’ll continue to make clear to Russia that further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia.”
President Obama: “The United States stands with the people of #Ukraine and their right to determine their own destiny.”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 17, 2014
The administration officials said Putin wasn’t sanctioned despite his support
of the Crimean referendum because the U.S. doesn’t usually begin with heads of
state. But the officials, speaking to reporters on a conference call on the
condition they not be quoted by name, say those sanctioned are very close to
Putin and that the sanctions are “designed to hit close to home.”
The U.S. announcement came shortly after the European Union announced travel
bans and asset freezes on 21 people they have linked to the unrest in Crimea.
Obama administration officials say there is some overlap between the U.S. and
European list, which wasn’t immediately made public.
The sanctions were expected after residents in Crimea voted overwhelmingly
Sunday in favor of the split. Crimea’s parliament on Monday declared the region
an independent state. The administration officials say there is some concrete
evidence that some ballots for the referendum arrived pre-marked in many cities
and “there are massive anomalies in the vote.” The officials did not say what
that evidence was.
The United States, European Union and others say the action violates the
Ukrainian constitution and international law and took place in the strategic
peninsula under duress of Russian military intervention. Putin maintained that
the vote was legal and consistent with the right of self-determination,
according to the Kremlin.
The administration officials said they will be looking at additional sanctions
if Russia moves to annex Crimea or takes other action. Those targeted will have
all U.S. assets frozen and no one in the United States can do business with them
under Obama’s order.
“Today’s actions send a strong message to the Russian government that there
are consequences for their actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of Ukraine, including their actions supporting the illegal referendum
for Crimean separation,” the White House said in a statement.
“Today’s actions also serve as notice to Russia that unless it abides by its
international obligations and returns its military forces to their original
bases and respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the United
States is prepared to take additional steps to impose further political and
economic costs,” the statement said.
Administration officials say those Obama targeted also are key political
players in Russia also responsible for the country’s tightening of human rights
and civil liberties in the country. Obama’s order targets were:
• Vladislav Surkov, a Putin aide
• Sergey Glazyev, a Putin adviser
• Leonid Slutsky, a state Duma deputy
• Andrei Klishas, member of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly
of the Russian Federation
• Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council
• Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation.
• Yelena Mizulina, a state Duma deputy
The four newly targeted by the Treasury Department are:
• Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine for Russia and has supported the dispatch of
Russian troops into Ukraine
• Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of Crimea separatist group Ukrainian Choice and
a close friend of Putin
• Sergey Aksyonov, prime minister of Crimea’s regional government
• Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament