WASHINGTON – As President Obama warned of possible new U.S. sanctions against Russia, a senior Ukrainian official Thursday urged the West to move immediately to impose penalties against entire sectors of the Russian economy.
Danylo Lubkivsky, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, said the United States and Europe need to move beyond sanctions on individuals to the more far-reaching “sectoral” sanctions because Russia “has already crossed the red line.”
With Russia sending more troops to its region bordering Ukraine, “we have to do it right now,” he said in an appearance at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “We have to do everything possible to stop the aggression.”
U.S. and Europe have so far largely limited their sanctions to individuals, with limited effect. They have threatened for weeks to hit Moscow with penalties on financial institutions, defense industries or the energy sector.
But they have hesitated, in part because of the damage it would do to the U.S. and European economies.
Lubkivsky said that while the interim government in Kiev wants to seek a diplomatic solution to the standoff in eastern Ukraine, it is prepared to use force if Russia and pro-Russian militants continue what he described as their aggressive moves.
Russia and Ukraine each appear to be escalating their confrontation, with Kiev ordering “anti-terrorist” operations to take back buildings seized by pro-Russian militants, as Russian officials warn that they are prepared to intervene on behalf of threatened pro-Russian elements.
President Obama, appearing in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said additional U.S. sanctions have been “teed up” for use against Russia. He didn’t say what kind of penalties U.S. officials are contemplating, and pointed out that their effectiveness depends on whether Washington is joined by European allies.
Ukrainian authorities did not intervene when militants, hoping to gain more autonomy or even annexation by Russia, began seizing public buildings in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. But officials have expressed a harder line in recent days, and Lubkivsky followed suit.
He said the Ukrainians were ready to respond if Russia sent troops across the border, as it had done in seizing the Crimea region.
“We can’t exclude the worst scenario,” he said.
Lubkivsky and Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Olexander Motsyk, said they expected to begin receiving financial aid from the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. and Europe within the next few days.