U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland says the United States and Europe are examining potential "deeper sanctions" against Russia should pro-Moscow separatists push to seize further territory in eastern Ukraine.
Nuland told a Congressional hearing on March 4 that new sanctions could be introduced should the separatists embark on a "further land grab" and that Washington was watching for a possible rebel push toward "at-risk villages" on the road to the strategic eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
She said a U.S. government sanctions team was in Europe this week and that Washington and the EU were discussing further sanctions targeting Russian economic sectors should a February cease-fire brokered in Minsk break down.
"It is important to keep these sanctions in place and to consider deepening them," she said.
Meanwhile, a senior U.S. lawmaker says he plans to introduce legislation that will offer "greater assistance" to Ukraine and increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Kremlin's interference in Ukraine.
U.S. Representative Eliot Engel (Democrat-New York) announced the planned legislation on March 4, telling a congressional hearing that it will "offer Ukraine greater assistance on a variety of fronts" and "dial up the pressure on Vladimir Putin for his reckless, destructive and destabilizing policies."
"And it will send a clear message that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine against Russian aggression," Engel, the ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, told the hearing.
Engel did not provide details of the bill, which his office said would be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives "in the weeks ahead."