US imposes sanctions on 7 Russian officials, 17 firms: White House
MANILA - Agence France Presse
President Barack Obama looks towards Press Secretary Jay Carney during a joint news conference with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, April 28. AP PhotoThe United States on Monday imposed new sanctions on seven Russian officials and 17 firms linked to President Vladimir Putin's inner circle to punish the Kremlin for failing to ease tensions in Ukraine.
Deepening the worst East-West showdown since the end of the Cold War, Washington is also tightening licensing requirements for certain hi-tech exports to Russia that could have a military use, the White House announced in a statement issued in Manila, where President Barack Obama is on a state visit.
"The United States has taken further action today in response to Russia's continued illegal intervention in Ukraine and provocative acts that undermine Ukraine's democracy and threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity," said White House spokesman Jay Carney in a statement.
Carney said Russia had done nothing to meet the terms of a deal agreed in Geneva with Ukraine, the European Union and the United States and designed to rein in pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"Russia's involvement in the recent violence in eastern Ukraine is indisputable," he said.
The sanctions follow up on previously announced measures targeting other members of Putin's political and inner circle and a Russian bank.
They do not however specifically target sectors of the Russian economy like energy and mining.
The White House said those measures would only be imposed by the United States and its European allies if Russia actually invades Ukraine.
A senior US official said the sanctions would be rolled out in coordination with new European Union sanctions, and that existing measures were already having a "substantial impact" on the Russian economy.
Diplomatic sources in Brussels meanwhile said that a further 15 officials would be subject to the same visa bans and asset freezes already imposed on 50 others.
The sources said the action would be taken because Moscow shows no sign of reversing course in Ukraine.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency that his country would respond to the sanctions.
"We are certain that this response will have a painful effect on Washington," he said.
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Russia's "dangerous and inflammatory actions against Ukraine are illegal and illegitimate".
He said in a statement that Russia's economic growth forecasts had "dropped sharply, capital flight has accelerated and higher borrowing costs reflect declining confidence in the market outlook".
The companies sanctioned include Avia Group limited, the Severny Morsoy Bank, InvestCapital Bank, Transoil, Volga Resources Group, SMP Bank, Sobin Bank and Zest Leasing.
Individuals hit with visa bans and asset freezes include Oleg Belavantsev, who was named presidential envoy to Crimea by Putin in March.
Sergei Chemezov, director general of Rostec, the state development manufacturing and export programme for hi-tech exports, is also on the list. The US Treasury said Chemezov is a trusted aide to Putin.
Deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak is hit by sanctions, along with Evgeniy Murov, director of Russia's Federal Protective Service.
State Duma Deputy Aleksei Pushkov is among those named along with Igor Sechin, president and chairman of the Management Board for Rosneft, Russia's top petroleum company and one of the world's largest publicly-traded oil companies.
"Sechin has shown utter loyalty to Vladimir Putin -- a key component to his current standing," the Treasury said.