Barack Obama has announced tough new sanctions against key allies of Vladimir Putin, prompting the announcement of retaliatory measures from Moscow that have already been laughed off by some in Washington.
In a background briefing administration officials said the sanctions targeted “cronies” of President Putin and a “croney” bank that they favoured, Bank Rossiya, which is to be “frozen out of the dollar.”
Increasing pressure on Moscow ... President Barack Obama announces the US is expanding sanctions to target more individuals in Russia. Photo: AP
Warning of further measures President Obama said he had just signed an executive order that would give the administration authority to extend sanctions to whole sectors of the Russian economy.
“This is not our preferred outcome. These sanctions would not only have a significant impact on the Russian economy, but could also be disruptive to the global economy. However, Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community,” he said.
While I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to go on vacation with my family in Siberia this summer, I am honored to be on this list— Senator Dan Coats (@SenDanCoats) March 20, 2014
Of the new targets of sanctions one of the officials said, “Several of these individuals are also close confidants of President Putin, part of his inner circle. And in particular, I'd call your attention to Andrei Fursenko, who is an aide to President Putin and has been with Putin since 1993; Vladimir Yakunin, who is the chairman of Russian Railways, a major state-owned enterprise, regularly consults with President Putin on a number of issues involving the railway and other issues; and Vladimir Kozin, who is the head of administration of the Russian Federation since 2000.”
Two more are known as the Rotenberg brothers, Arkady Rotenberg and Boris Rotenberg, who secured $7 billion in contracts associated with the Sochi Olympic Games.
Another is Yuri Kovalchuk, who the official described as “essentially the personal banker for many senior officials in the Russian Federation, including President Putin.”
Those targeted will have any US assets frozen and be forbidding from doing any business with any other American business or financial institution.
The European Union and Japan is introducing parallel sanctions.
While the first round of sanctions announced on Monday were viewed by many in Washington, DC, as almost symbolic, the new measures have are seen as far more significant.
Russia has already announced retaliatory sanctions against a list of prominent American politicians, who will be forbidden from travelling to Russia.
Most have already dismissed the sanctions and some seem thrilled to be included on the list.
Senator Dan Coats tweeted his response: “While I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to go on vacation with my family in Siberia this summer, I am honored to be on this list.”
John Boehner’s spokesman said in a statement that the Speaker of the House was “proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against Putin’s aggression.”
The Republican John McCain, who has been advocating a tougher stance against Russia said, “I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen. Nonetheless, I will never cease my efforts on behalf of the freedom, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea,” Business Insider reported.
Other Russian targets include the Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Caroline Atkinson, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Thursday refused to rule out barring Putin from attending the G20 summit in Brisbane later this year.
Ms Bishop said Australia was considering what further steps to take after announcing on Wednesday that it would impose sanctions and travel bans on a dozen individuals over Russia's interference in Ukraine.