Ukraine crisis: US imposes more sanctions on Putin's inner circle in attempt to make Russia intervene to end separatist violence

The US imposed sanctions on 24 more Russian companies and individuals on Monday including the head of a top state energy firm, with the EU also expanding sanctions to try to push Moscow to intervene and end the separatist violence in eastern Ukraine.

While the measures announced by the United States took the sanctions even closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and the Kremlin’s financial backers, both Washington and Brussels shied away from hitting whole sectors of the Russian economy.

Instead seven Russian officials and 17 companies will be added to a list of entities with their assets frozen in the US. The individuals are also under travel bans. The European Union agreed to impose the same sanctions on 15 people, taking the total number of Russians and Ukrainians under EU restrictive measures to 70.

The European Union will not release the names of those sanctioned until today, but they are understood to be political figures linked to the Russian government. The US is moving more aggressively against the oligarchs and officials at the heart of Mr Putin’s government, and they named their most high-profile target yet: Igor Sechin, chief executive of the state-owned energy giant Rosneft and a powerful ally of the Russian President.

 

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

Other individuals hit by the new US measures include Sergei Chemezov, the head of the industrial and defence conglomerate Rostec, and a Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Kozak. Companies linked to Mr Putin hit by assets freezes include banks and investment groups, while the US will also restrict export licences for equipment which could be used by the Russian military.

This is the third wave of US and EU sanctions, but they have so far had little impact on Mr Putin’s decision-making.

Washington and Brussels say Moscow has refused to uphold its end of a peace accord agreed in Geneva earlier this month. However Russia insists the government in Kiev is to blame, and denies using proxies in the region.  Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the sanctions announced yesterday “demonstrate a complete lack of understanding about what is happening in Ukraine”.

While Russian government figures have mocked and disregarded the sanctions, they have had some impact, with the credit agency Standard & Poor’s downgrading Russia’s rating. So far the US and EU have stopped short of broad sanctions on whole sectors of the Russian economy. EU nations fear the knock-on effects at home, but a White House official said yesterday that the recent kidnapping in eastern Ukraine of eight military observers from EU nations could prompt a harder line.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Serious Fraud Office has frozen some $23m (£14m) of assets over suspicions of corruption in Ukraine.

Read more: The colonel who can decide east Ukraine's fate
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