Obama to Putin: U.S. will never recognize Crimea vote

10:28 AM, Mar 17, 2014   |    comments
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President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin leave a meeting in Northern Ireland in 2013. (Photo: Evan Vucci AP)



WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - President Obama announced Monday that he is leveling new sanctions against seven Russian officials who his administration says have contributed to the crisis in Ukraine, one day after the Crimean region of Ukraine voted overwhelming to join Russia.

In comments at the White House, Obama said he believes there is still a diplomatic solution to end the crisis. At the same time, he warned that if Russia continues to interfere with Ukraine's sovereignty he stands ready to push for even tougher sanctions.

"We are imposing sanctions on specific individuals for undermining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and government of Ukraine," Obama said."We are making it clear that there are consequences for their actions."

The high-level government officials named by the White House are: Vladislav Surkov, Sergey Glazyev, Leonid Slutsky, Andrei Klishas, Valentina Matviyenko, Dmitry Rogozin, and Yelena Mizulina.

Surkov and Glazyev are presidential advisers to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The five other hold various positions in the Russian parliament and Russian government.

One senior administration official described the officials being targeted as the "key ideologists" and "architects" of the Russian military incursion into Crimea.

"These are by far the most comprehensive sanctions applied to Russia since the end of the Cold War--far and away so," said the official, who asked not to be identified so as not to preempt Obama's statement.

The sanctions focus on the individual personal assets, but not companies that the officials may manage on behalf of the Russian state. Any assets that the individuals have in U.S. jurisdiction have been frozen and Americans are prohibited from doing business with them.

"The United States also will seek to hold accountable individuals who use their resources or influence to support or act on behalf of senior Russian government officials," the White House said in a statement. "We recognize that the Russian leadership derives significant support from, and takes action through, individuals who do not themselves serve in any official capacity. "

Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia during Sunday's hastily arranged referendum.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to speak on the Crimea situation in a special address to the Russian parliament on Tuesday.

Obama spoke by phone on Sunday with Putin, and reiterated that the United States would not accept the results of the referendum. He again called on Putin to support a diplomatic solution to the crisis, while underscoring that one cannot be reached if Russian troops continue to be deployed in Crimea.

The Treasury Department also announced it is imposing sanctions against former President Viktor Yanukovych, former Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk as well as Crimea-based separatist leaders Sergey Aksyonov and Vladimir Konstantinov.

The White House announcement came after the European Union announced on Monday travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people for their involvement in the Ukraine crisis. The EU is not expected to announce the individuals who are being cited until Tuesday, but Obama administration officials believe there is some overlap in the the U.S. and EU lists.

Vice President Biden will visit Poland and Lithuania next week, where he is to huddle with leaders in the region on the Ukraine crisis. Obama will travel to the Netherlands next week to take part in the biennial Nuclear Security Summit, but the situation in Ukraine will be the main focus on the sidelines of the summit.

"If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions," Obama said.

By Aamer Madhani, USATODAY


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