US imposes new sanctions on Russian individuals, companies

Published April 28, 2014  -

obamasanctionsThe Obama administration took a shot at Vladimir Putin's close associates -- and perhaps the Russian president's own pockets -- by ratcheting up sanctions on officials and companies tied to him in a bid to compel Moscow to ease its intervention in eastern Ukraine. 

U.S. congressional lawmakers, and even President Obama himself, have questioned whether new sanctions will have an impact. As he announced the package, Obama acknowledged that "we don't yet know whether it's going to work." 

But the White House said it was announcing new sanctions because Russia "has done nothing" to honor its commitment from a recently struck diplomatic deal and "in fact has further escalated the crisis." 

A White House statement said the administration would target seven Russian government officials, "including two members of President Putin's inner circle" -- hitting them with an asset freeze and U.S. visa ban. Seventeen companies "linked to Putin's inner circle" would also be subject to an asset freeze. 

Further, the Commerce Department targeted 13 of those companies with additional restrictions, and the administration plans to deny export license applications for "any high-technology items that could contribute to Russia's military capabilities." 

Obama announced the sanctions at a news conference in Manila, where he is making the Philippines his last stop on a four-country tour of Asia. 

"The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin personally," Obama said. "The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he's engaging in could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul." 

The president has been building a case for this new round of sanctions throughout his trip, both in his public comments and in private conversations with European leaders. 

The new sanctions are intended to build on earlier U.S. and European visa bans and asset freezes imposed on Russian officials, including many in Putin's inner circle, after Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last month. White House officials say they decided last week to impose the new sanctions after determining that Russia had not lived up to its commitments under a fragile diplomatic accord aimed at easing the crisis in Ukraine. But the U.S. held off on implementing the sanctions in order to coordinate its actions with the European Union, which could also announce new penalties as early as Monday.