U.S. calls Russia's role in Ukraine violence 'indisputable,' imposes new sanctions


McClatchy Washington Bureau

The Obama administration imposed new sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals Monday in retaliation for what the White House said was Russia's failure to abide by an April 17 agreement intended to reduce tensions in Ukraine.

"Russia's involvement in the recent violence in eastern Ukraine is indisputable," the White House said in a statement.

The new sanctions would freeze the assets of seven Russian government officials, including two the White House described as members of the inner circle of President Vladimir Putin, and 17 Russian businesses. Putin himself is not targeted.

“The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin, personally," President Barack Obama told reporters in Manila, Philippines, where he is completing a eight-day Asian tour before returning to the United States on Tuesday. "The goal is to change his calculus with how the current actions he’s engaging in in Ukraine could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy.”

In addition to freezing assets in the United States, the U.S. will impose licensing requirements on sales of high-tech equipment to 13 of the companies "with a presumption of denial." Those licensing requirements are aimed at preventing the Russian companies from buying anything that "could contribute to Russia's military capabilities." Already existing licenses for the sale of such equipment will be canceled, the White House said.

Notably, the sanctions do not affect Russia's exports of oil and natural gas. Europe is deeply dependent on imports of Russian energy, and American companies are heavily invested in Russia energy exploration.

In a statement, the White House made clear that it felt betrayed by Russia's actions after the April 17 agreement, which was announced with great fanfare in Geneva by Secretary of State John Kerry as a way to pause rising tensions in Ukraine. The agreement called for illegal armed groups in Ukraine to lay down their arms and leave buildings they occupied. Since then, however, pro-Russian separatists have tightened their grip on government buildings in eastern Ukraine.

"Russia has done nothing to meet its Geneva commitments and in fact has further escalated the crisis," the White House statement said.

Email: khall@mcclatchydc.com

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