New U.S. sanctions against key Russian and Ukrainian officials make clear "there are consequences for their actions," President Obama said today, and warned that the U.S. will take further steps if Russian President Vladimir Putin does not back down on the crisis in Crimea.
"If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions," Obama said in a hastily announced statement in the Briefing Room.
"Further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world," he said. "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."
In the most comprehensive sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War, the president today froze the U.S. assets of seven Russian officials "responsible for undermining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and government of Ukraine" in a move to target Putin's inner circle. The Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on four Ukrainians, including former President Viktor Yanukovich.
The president reiterated that the international community does not recognize Crimea's vote in favor of breaking away from Ukraine to join Russia, and said he remains hopeful that "there's still a path to resolve this situation diplomatically in a way that addresses the interests of both Russia and Ukraine."
"That includes Russia pulling its forces in Crimea back to their bases, supporting the deployment of additional international monitors in Ukraine and engaging in dialogue with the Ukrainian government, which has indicated its openness to pursuing constitutional reform as they move forward towards elections this spring," he said.