[QODLink]
Americas

West and Russia push new Crimea sanctions

US and EU widen penalties on Putin's allies over Ukraine crisis, with Moscow responding in kind to "hostile thrust".

Last updated: 21 Mar 2014 00:36
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

The EU and the US have announced new sanctions against prominent Russians, including close allies of President Vladimir Putin, as Moscow raced to complete its annexation of Crimea.

The European bloc on Friday announced it was expanding its list of Russians targeted with sanctions by 12, hours after the US president, Barack Obama, said his administration had imposed sanctions on "senior officials" in the Kremlin.

Moscow on Thursday announced its own sanctions against senior US politicians in retaliation against visa bans and asset freezes imposed by Washington on its citizens.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said Russia's threats to southern and eastern areas of Ukraine - which like Crimea have large Russian-speaking populations - posed a serious risk of escalating the crisis in the region.

"We're imposing sanctions on more senior officials of the Russian government," he said.

"In addition, we are today sanctioning a number of other individuals with substantial resources and influence who provide material support to the Russian leadership, as well as a bank that provides material support to these individuals."

Duma approves annexation

The president's remarks came after the Russian parliament's lower house gave its near-unanimous approval to the country's annexation of Crimea, ignoring threats of more sanctions.

The Kremlin-controlled Duma voted 445-1 on Thursday to make Crimea a part of Russia following a quick discussion in which members assailed the Ukrainian authorities.

The vote came as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Moscow for a meeting with Putin. "I'm deeply concerned about the current situation," Ban said at the start of the talks.

The incorporation of Crimea into Russia needs to be rubber-stamped by the upper house and receive a final endorsement by Putin, formalities expected to be completed by the end of the week.

UN Secretary General seeks solution to Crimea crisis

During Thursday's debate, senior politicians spoke of the need to protect Russian speakers elsewhere in Ukraine from radical Ukrainian nationalists, statements that could fuel fears of Russian invasion.

"They don't understand in Washington that entire territories will flee as Crimea did if such outrage continues," said Vladimir Vasilyev, the leader of the dominant United Russia faction.

Though Putin, who signed the treaty for Crimea to join Russia earlier this week, said he is not seeking a division of Ukraine, he insists the country can "use all means" to protect Russian speakers.

He also made his view clear that he sees Ukraine as an artificial state carved up by the Soviet government to include some of Russia's historic lands.

Russia has been arguing for broad autonomy for Ukraine's regions that would turn the nation into a federation, and guarantees of Ukraine's neutral status to prevent its membership in NATO.

Thursday's Duma vote follows Crimea's referendum on Sunday, which was held just two weeks after Russian forces effectively took over the strategic Black Sea peninsula. The United States and the European Union have responded by slapping some limited sanctions on Russia.

Ilya Ponomarev, an opposition lawmaker who was the only Duma member who voted against the move, said in his blog that Russia behaved like a "banal aggressor" and made a grave mistake by annexing Crimea.

564

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.