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U.S. Adds Russian Banks, Shipbuilding Company To Sanctions List


A sign for VTB Bank atop a building is seen beyond a monument of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in central Stavropol, in southern Russia.
A sign for VTB Bank atop a building is seen beyond a monument of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in central Stavropol, in southern Russia.

U.S. President Barack Obama increased sanctions against Russia on July 29 amid Moscow's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Obama said from the White House that "today is a reminder that the United States means what it says and we will rally the international community in standing up for the rights and freedom of people around the world."

The U.S. move follows a European Union decision earlier in the day to impose broad economic sanctions against Russian individuals and companies, a shift from a previous reluctance by the 28-member bloc to take a harder line against Moscow.

Obama said that acting in concert with the Europeans will give the sanctions an "even bigger bite."

The U.S. Treasury Department added three banks to a list of sectoral sanctions and sanctioned one shipbuilding company on July 29 in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine.

The Bank of Moscow, the Russian Agricultural Bank, and VTB Bank were added to a list of companies to which U.S. persons and firms are barred from providing financing for longer than 90 days or issuing new equity to the companies.

A senior administration official said Washington had sanctioned five of the top six state-owned banks, which account for 30 percent of the Russian banking sector.

However, U.S. individuals are not barred from doing business with the banks.

Customers of the banks will be allowed to conduct transactions in dollars and debit and credit cards issued by them are not subject to sanctions.

United Shipbuilding Corporation of St. Petersburg, which is 100 percent state-owned and was created by Russian President Vladimir Putin, was added to a list of entities with which U.S. individuals are prohibited from doing any business.

The Commerce Department also announced that it would impose export-license restrictions on new technologies for deepwater or Arctic shale drilling in Russia.

The sanctions hit across a range of U.S. agencies: the Agriculture Department suspended all bilateral credit and finance for Russia, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation suspended consideration of any new financing or insurance from Russia, and the Export-Import Bank suspended any new transactions for U.S. exports to Russia.

"These are the very powerful sectoral sanctions that you’ve heard us describe for a number of months now," a senior administration official told reporters.

EU, Too

The European Union announced earlier on July 29 that it was adding eight individuals and three entities to a list of 87 individuals and 20 entities who are sanctioned.

The European Union also agreed to impose an arms embargo on Russia, restrict access to European capital markets for Russian state-owned banks, and restrict export of dual-use goods and technologies, including in the petroleum sector.

"This is a choice that Russia, and President [Vladimir] Putin in particular, has made," said Obama.

However, despite the escalation of sanctions, Obama rejected a suggestion that it amounted to "a new Cold War."

"The sooner that Russians recognize that the best chance for them to have influence inside of Ukraine is by being good neighbors and maintaining trade and commerce, rather than trying to dictate what the Ukrainian people can aspire to, rendering Ukraine a vassal state to Russia," said Obama, "the sooner we can resolve this crisis in ways that [don't] result in [the] tragic loss of life that we've seen in eastern Ukraine."

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