WASHINGTON – The United States and its European allies hit more than two dozen Russian government officials, executives and companies with sanctions Monday as punishment for their country’s actions in Ukraine, yet the penalties stopped short of targeting Russia’s economy more broadly. In Moscow, there was relief that the sanctions were not as far-ranging as feared.
The measures, including asset freezes and visa bans, affect people close to the Kremlin and are designed to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis. However, the Russian leader himself was not among those targeted, and Obama administration officials acknowledged there was no expectation that Putin would quickly change course.
Still, officials in Washington and Brussels said the sanctions, coupled with those imposed following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula last month, would significantly boost the cost to Moscow of ignoring an agreement it signed earlier this month to take concrete steps to ease tensions in Ukraine.
“The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin personally,” President Barack Obama told reporters in the Philippines, where he was wrapping up a four-nation trip to Asia. “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.”
Obama said Russia still could resolve the Ukraine crisis through a diplomatic path. But he sounded far from confident about the immediate prospects for the new sanctions packages being enough to change Putin’s approach.
“We don’t yet know whether it’s going to work,” he said.
In Ukraine, meanwhile, the mayor of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, was shot and badly wounded on Monday, and hundreds of men attacked a pro-Ukraine rally in the eastern city of Donetsk, wounding dozens.
Insurgents tacitly backed by Moscow are seeking more autonomy in eastern Ukraine – and possibly independence or annexation by Russia.
In Washington, the White House and the Treasury, State and Commerce departments issued statements detailing the seven Russian individuals and 17 companies affected by the new U.S sanctions. There also are new arms and technology export restrictions on Russia.
Meanwhile, in Brussels, the European Union announced it had added 15 more officials to its Russia sanctions list, bringing to 48 the number of Russians singled out for “undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.”
They will be banned from traveling to the 28-nation bloc and will see their assets there frozen, the EU said in a statement. The names of the individuals targeted weren’t immediately released but are to be included in the official publication of the move in the bloc’s legal journal early Tuesday.
The EU is Russia’s biggest trading partner, giving the Europeans greater economic leverage over Moscow than the U.S. has. However, the EU treads more carefully in imposing sanctions since Russia is also one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers.