The United States has imposed sanctions on seven Russian government officials and 17 companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a fresh attempt to force Moscow to back down from its intervention in Ukraine.
The White House on Monday said the third round of sanctions in response to the Ukraine crisis was prompted by Moscow’s failure to adhere to an April 17 agreement in Geneva on ways to resolve the situation.
Officials made clear that sanctions against key sections of Russia’s economy will be imposed, including the energy and defence sections, should Russia send troops massed along the Ukraine border into eastern Ukraine.
The seven Russians sanctioned include two Putin allies: Igor Sechin, head of Russia’s major oil company Rosneft, and Sergei Chemezov, head of Rostec, a Russian state-owned high-tech products company.
The 17 companies will be subject to an asset freeze.
Russia’s Volga Group, one of the targeted companies, said on Monday that Washington’s measures were “politically motivated statements and decisions”.
The other people named on Monday were Oleg Belavencev, who is Putin’s presidential envoy to Crimea, Dmitry Kozak, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, Evgeniy Murov, director of Russia’s federal protective service and an army general, Aleksei Pushkov, a state Duma deputy, and Vyacheslav Volodin, a Putin adviser.
The White House said that Washington would also deny export license applications for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russian military capabilities.
The US decision coincided with a preliminary agreement reached by European leaders to impose asset freezes and visa bans on 15 more people.
The names of those to be added to the list will not be made public until they are published in the EU’s Official Journal on Tuesday.
The US has been much more aggressive in the penalties it has imposed on Russia than has the 28-nation European Union, which depends heavily on Russia for energy.
The EU has previously imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 33 Russians and Crimeans for their part in Russia’s seizure of Crimea last month.
Armed separatists loyal to Russia have been seeking more autonomy in eastern Ukraine, where they have seized government buildings, set up roadblocks or staged protests.
On Monday, Hennady Kernes, the mayor of Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, was shot by gunmen and was said to be undergoing surgery, according to his office.
Kernes was a staunch opponent of the pro-West Maidan movement that toppled President Viktor Yanukovich in February and was widely viewed as the organiser of activists sent to Kiev from eastern Ukraine to harass those demonstrators.
But he has since softened his stance towards the new Kiev government and insisted that he does not support the pro-Russia separatists or any annexation of Ukrainian territory.