Obama: U.S. to Expand Sanctions Against Russia

President Obama announced today that the U.S. will be expanding its sanctions against Russia for the country's intervention in Ukraine. The sanctions target banks and energy producers, as well as several defense firms.

"I've repeatedly made it clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine, that Russia must urge separatists to release their hostages and support a ceasefire, that Russia needs to pursue internationally mediated talks and agree to meaningful monitors on the border—I've made this clear directly to Mr. Putin," Obama said. "So far, Russia has failed to take any of the steps that I mentioned."

The increased sanctions follow accusations by the U.S. that Russia continues to support pro-Russian separatists in their fight against Ukraine. From the Washington Post:

As fighting between Ukrainian government forces and separatists continued, the administration charged that Russia continued to mobilize and distribute equipment, including armored vehicles, multiple rocket launchers, artillery and air defense systems, to the separatists.

A State Department "fact sheet" this week said that "Russia continues to deploy new forces extremely close to the Ukrainian border" and was mobilizing additional units.

The primary targets of the sanctions, as reported by the New York Times:

Among the firms targeted were some of the most prominent in Russia, including Rosneft, the state-owned oil company and largest oil producer; Gazprombank, the financial arm of Gazprom, the giant state-controlled natural gas producer; Novatek, another Russian natural gas producer that has been competing with Gazprom; and VEB, the state economic development bank.

The administration also targeted eight state-owned defense firms; four Russian government officials, including an aide to President Vladimir V. Putin and a top official in the Federal Security Service; an oil shipping facility in Crimea, which Moscow annexed; a pro-Russian separatist leader; and the rump rebel organizations in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Sergei A. Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, responded to the sanctions by telling the Interfax news agency, "The new decision by the U.S. administration to lodge sanctions under false pretenses against a number of Russian businesses and individuals can't be called anything other than outrageous and totally unacceptable."

[Image via AP]