Obama Announces Sanctions to Punish Russia For Crimea Invasion

PHOTO: President Obama gives an address on the situation in Ukraine on March 17, 2014.
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President Obama announced an expansion of sweeping sanctions today against officials in the Russian government in an effort to impose "costs" that further isolate Russia following its military occupation of Crimea, which he said threatens the "sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Ukraine.

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

The announcement also expands the scope of the sanctions to include individuals in the arms sector in Russia and those providing “material support” to senior Russian government officials.

Crimea Votes Yes to Joining Russia

Obama said Russian must pull back it troops from Crimea, support the deployment for additional international monitors in Ukraine, and participate in dialog with the Ukrainian government in order for this situation to be resolved diplomatically.

"The future of Ukraine must be decided by people of Ukraine," Obama added.

The sanctions announced today are some of the most comprehensive placed on Russia since the Cold War. While they do not target Putin directly, that are aimed at individuals in his inner circle in the Russian government. And Obama made clear that further sanctions could be levied if Russia continues to interfere with Ukraine.

The measures announced today are directed against 11 individuals, including Vladislav Surkov, a close adviser to Putin, Dmitry Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, a Valentina Matviyenko, a senior lawmaker and chair of the upper house of parliament, and Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted former president of Ukraine.

Following a "referendum" this weekend in the region of Crimea, which has been occupied by Russian troops, Obama warned Putin in a phone call on Sunday that the results, which overwhelmingly went in favor of Crimea joining Russia, would "never be recognized by the United States and the international community."

According to a senior US official there will be further sanctions if Russia acts to formally recognize the referendum and annex Ukraine.

Vice President Biden will travel to Europe tonight for consultations with NATO allies Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

"The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia's diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy," Obama said.

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