Wednesday, August 24, 2016


U.S., Russia Hit Each Other With Sanctions Over Crimea

U.S. President Barack Obama announced the expanded list of sanctions and executive order on March 20 in response to Russia's attempted annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced the expanded list of sanctions and executive order on March 20 in response to Russia's attempted annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

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The United States and Russia have hit each other with sanctions amid soaring tensions over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea territory.

President Barack Obama announced sanctions on March 20 targeting 20 individuals, including President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff and close associate Sergei Ivanov and other influential individuals, as well as Bank Rossiya, which has close ties to the Russian leadership.

Obama also said he had signed an order clearing the way for the United States to impose sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy.

Minutes later, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that nine American lawmakers and presidential aides have been barred from entering Russia.

The steps came as Western outrage continued over Russia's annexation of Crimea on March 17.

"Based on the executive order that I signed in response to Russia's initial intervention in Ukraine, we are imposing sanctions on more senior officials of the Russian government," Obama said. "In addition, we are today sanctioning a number of other individuals with substantial resources and influence who provide material support to the Russian leadership, as well as a bank that provides material support to these individuals."

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Other Russians facing an asset freeze include the speaker of the State Duma lower house of parliament, Sergei Naryshkin, the leader of the A Just Russia party Sergei Mironov, and Rossiya Bank chairman Yuri Kovalchuk.

The U.S. Treasury called Rossiya "the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation."

It said the bank, with assets of around $10 billion, has interests in the oil, gas, and energy sectors.
  • Yury Kovalchuk is the single largest shareholder of Bank Rossiya. The U.S. Treasury has described him as "the personal banker for senior officials of the Russian Federation including Putin."
  • Sergei Ivanov is the chief of staff of President Putin's executive office.
  • Sergei Mironov, a member of the State Duma and leader of the A Just Russia party, called for Russian intervention in Ukraine and initiated legislation to speed up the process of obtaining Russian citizenship for Ukrainians.
  • Sergei Naryshkin is the chairman of the State Duma and a member of the National Security Council of the Russian Federation.
  • Arkady Rotenberg, a construction billionaire and Vladimir Putin’s former judo sparring partner, has made billions of dollars in contracts for Gazprom and the Sochi Winter Olympics awarded to him by the Russian president. He once told "The Financial Times" he thought Putin was “sent to our country from God.”
  • Boris Rotenberg co-owns, with elder brother Arkady, a major supplier of construction services to Russian gas giant Gazprom. He is president of the FC Dynamo Moscow soccer club.
  • Igor Sergun is the head of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service and deputy chief of the General Staff.
  • Gennady Timchenko is one of the founders of Gunvor, a major commodity trading company involved in the oil and energy markets. The U.S. Treasury asserts that Gunvor’s activities "have been linked to Putin" and that "Putin has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds" -- a claim Gunvor management was quick to deny.
  • Vladimir Yakunin is the head of the state-owned company Russian Railways and a close Putin confidant.
  • Sergei Zheleznyak is the deputy speaker of the Russian State Duma.

Obama said Washington expects the measures to have a significant impact on the Russian economy.

"These sanctions would not only have a significant impact on the Russian economy but could also be disruptive to the global economy," Obama said. "However, Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community."

Minutes after Obama’s announcement, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced sanctions targeting nine U.S. lawmakers and officials.

It said six lawmakers -- Robert Menendez, Mary Landrieu, John McCain, Daniel Coats, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner -- and three presidential aides -- Caroline Atkinson, Daniel Pfeiffer, and Benjamin Rhodes -- are barred from entering Russia.

A Foreign Ministry statement said: "There should be no doubt: Moscow will respond appropriately to each hostile move made by the United States."

House speaker Boehner said in a Twitter statement that he was "proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against Putin's aggression."

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov said some individuals on the U.S. list caused "bewilderment" in the Kremlin. He said the Russian government considers such lists "unacceptable."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone after the dueling sanctions lists were released.

The Foreign Ministry quoted Lavrov as telling Kerry the annexation of Crimea "is not subject to review."

French President Francoise Hollande, meanwhile, said the European Union will cancel a planned June summit with Russia, and that further EU sanctions are being considered.

Shortly after Monday's annexation, the United States and EU imposed sanctions on nearly 30 Russians and Ukrainians.

The West calls Russia's annexation of Crimea illegal and has condemned it as the biggest European security threat since the Cold War.

Russia says its actions are fully compatible with international law. Moscow says it moved into Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians from right-wing Ukrainian nationalist groups.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

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