U.S. poised to slap sanctions on ‘key sectors’ of Russia’s economy, Obama warns


McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Obama on Thursday announced new sanctions on senior Russian government officials, a Russian bank and “influential” individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin -- and said he’s signed an executive order to allow the U.S. to impose sanctions against “key sectors” of the Russian economy.

Obama said hitting the Russian economy “is not our preferred outcome,” contending it would have “not only have a significant impact on the Russian economy, but could also be disruptive to the global economy.”

However, he added, “Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community.”

Administration officials said the sectors could include financial services, energy metals and mining, defense and related materials.

Obama also called on Congress -- which returns to Washington next week -- to pass legislation to aid Ukraine.

“Expressions of support are not enough,” he said. “We need action.”

A senior administration official told reporters that the sanctions are “only the beginning.

“Nobody should believe this is the end,” the administration official, speaking on a condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s response.

The new sanctions target Bank Rossiya, which U.S. officials said provides services to senior Russian government officials. Administration officials said many of those sanctioned hold accounts at thes bank and its controlled by one of Putin’s “cronies,” who is also being sanctioned.

They also include 8 individuals who were already sanctioned this week by the European Union, another administration official said, noting that several are “close confidantes of Putin.” One, he said, has been with Putin since 1993.

And they include members of Putin’s “inner circle,” officials said, including the chairman of Russian Railways, who regularly consults with Putin, the administration said.

Brothers Arkady Rotenberg and Boris Rotenberg, who administration officials said have provided support to Putin’s “pet projects by receiving and executing high price contracts for the Sochi Olympic Games and state-controlled Gazprom.”

The administrations says the two have amassed “enormous amounts of wealth” during the years of Putin’s rule in Russia, receiving approximately $7 billion in contracts for Sochi, alone.

Critics -- including those in Moscow -- had dismissed the White House’s first round of sanctions imposed on Monday, but administration officials said the sanctions are more than a slap on the wrist.

“Sanctions build over time, they’re very powerful,” a senior administration official, adding that the administration is working “actively” to design sanctions that will “hurt” Russian entities, “with the smallest effect” on the U.S. and its European partners.

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