Obama Announces Sanctions Against Russian Officials After Crimea Vote

Photo courtesy of CBS News.

Photo courtesy of CBS News.

CBS News – President Obama on Monday publicly condemned the results a referendum in the Crimean Peninsula to secede from Ukraine as illegitimate and announced his administration was pursuing sanctions against top Russian officials as a consequence.

“We’re making it clear that there are consequences for their actions,” the president said. And, he warned, “If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine we stand ready to impose further sanctions.”

The administration has maintained for weeks that the vote was a violation of the Ukrainian constitution and therefore illegitimate. In his statement from the White House Monday, the president it would not be recognized by the international community.”Continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation,” he said.The new penalties build on an executive order from the White House earlier this month that imposed visa restrictions on pro-Russian opponents of the new government in Ukraine, bringing the total number of individuals facing sanctions to 11. Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the order described the targeted individuals as “cronies” of the Russian government and arms industry who had had taken a leading role in envisioning or implementing the referendum strategy, including former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

“Today’s actions send a strong message to the Russian government that there are consequences for their actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including their actions supporting the illegal referendum for Crimean separation,” the White House said in a statement. A senior administration official later called the action, “far the most comprehensive sanctions applied to Russia since the end of the Cold War.”

The European Union also announced Monday it would freeze assets of and ban travel for 21 officials in Russia and Ukraine. Although that list has not yet been released, a senior administration official indicated there would be some overlap between the two groups.

“We urge our counterparts and financial institutions around the world to shun these individuals,” a senior administration official said.

Although the White House is using the sanctions to punish Russia, it is still seeking a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Ukraine. After the results of the referendum Sunday – in which 97 percent of voters backed secession and an ultimate reunification with Russia – Mr. Obama spoke with Putin to reprimand him for supporting the referendum and say there could be no resolution so long as Russian troops continued to remain inside Ukraine and conduct military exercises on the border.

The president said Monday that that the U.S. would “calibrate” its response based on whether Russia chooses to escalate or deescalate the situation.

Mr. Putin has shown no willingness to back down, however, and is scheduled to address the Russian Federal Assembly Tuesday and is widely expected to recommend formal annexation of Crimea, according to the administration.

The Crimean Peninsula had been a part of Russia until Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the U.S.S.R., gave it to the Ukrainians in 1954 to mark the 300th anniversary of Russia’s acquisition of Ukraine in the Treaty of Pereyaslav.

Vice President Biden is set to travel to Poland and Lithuania this week to discuss the situation in Ukraine with officials there.

The sanctions order targets:

- Vladislav Surkov, a Putin aide

- Sergey Glazyev, a Putin adviser

- Leonid Slutsky, a state Duma deputy

- Andrei Klishas, member of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation

- Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council

- Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation.

- Yelena Mizulina, a state Duma deputy

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