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U.S. Hits Putin's 'Inner Circle' In Fresh Russia Sanctions

Obama Says U.S. Will Levy New Russia Sanctions
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WATCH: U.S. President Barack Obama says new sanctions punishing Russia over its failure to uphold an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine will be announced later on April 28. (Reuters)

The United States has slapped sanctions on seven Russian officials and 17 companies it says are linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest associates, the latest punitive measures in response to what the Obama administration calls Moscow’s “indisputable” role in recent violence in Ukraine.

The White House, announcing the measures in an April 28 statement, said two of the senior officials targeted in the sanctions are in Putin's "inner circle," while the sanctions also included companies linked to this powerful group of individuals.

The new list of sanctioned individuals released by the U.S. Treasury Department on April 28 includes Igor Sechin, a close confidant of the Russian president and president of state-owned oil major Rosneft; Dmitry Kozak, the Russian deputy prime minister tasked with overseeing economic development in Crimea after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory last month; and Russian Technologies chief Sergei Chemezov, who is widely seen as close to Putin.

Those three as well as four other senior Russian officials will be hit with asset freezes and U.S. visa bans.

The White House said the fresh sanctions come in response to what it called “Russia’s continued illegal intervention in Ukraine” and follow what it described as the Kremlin’s failure to make good on its commitments to an April 17 agreement signed in Geneva to deescalate the situation in Ukraine.

“Since April 17, Russia has done nothing to meet its Geneva commitments and in fact has further escalated the crisis. Russia’s involvement in the recent violence in eastern Ukraine is indisputable,” the White House said.

Russian Measures

Russia, meanwhile, vowed that it would retaliate with measures that will be “painful” for Washington.

“We will respond, of course. We have never concealed that we have capabilities for such a response at our disposal,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency.

He added that “no one has to right to use the language of sanctions in dealings with Russia.”

“Attempts to dictate anything to us, or advance ultimatums will boomerang," Ryabkov told Interfax.

In addition to Sechin, Kozak, and Chemezov, the Obama administration levied sanctions against Aleksei Pushkov, a senior Russian lawmaker and television personality known for his relentless and vocal criticism of the United States and Europe, and Vyacheslav Volodin, Putin’s first deputy chief of staff who is seen as a key architect of Putin’s domestic political agenda in recent years.

The targeted companies in the new round of sanctions do not include major drivers of the Russian economy such as state-owned energy giant Gazprom, the world’s largest gas company, which several senior U.S. lawmakers had asked the Obama administration to punish over the Ukraine crisis.

The White House had said it was calibrating its potential sanctions against companies and sectors to minimize potential economic fallout for U.S. businesses and allies in Europe, which depends heavily on Russian gas.
Reported by Carl Schreck in Washington
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