WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Friday sanctioned six Crimean leaders, a former lawmaker from Ukraine and a natural gas company as it tried to ramp up pressure on Russia to de-escalate tensions over control of Ukraine.
The Treasury Department identified the individuals as Crimean separatists and leading organizers of the March referendum approving the Crimean peninsula's secession from Ukraine. The U.S. and many European officials say the vote was unconstitutional and invalid. Russia subsequently annexed the peninsula.
The Crimea-based company Chernomorneftegaz was also sanctioned, the Treasury Department said.
“Crimea is occupied territory. We will continue to impose costs on those involved in ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said David S. Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Under the new sanctions, the officials and the company are barred from doing business or accessing assets in the U.S.
President Obama is trying to put economic pressure on Russia to deter President Vladimir Putin from making another move into Ukraine. U.S. officials this week accused Moscow of fomenting armed confrontation between pro-Russia demonstrators and police in eastern Ukraine.
The U.S. has already imposed sanctions on high-level Russian officials and a Russian bank with ties to Putin’s inner circle. The actions, however, have limited economic impact and are largely meant to prod the European Union into stepping up its penalties. Europe, with its closer economic ties to Russia, is in a better position to inflict economic pain on Moscow, although leaders there have been reluctant to take steps that could hurt their own economies.
Individuals added to the U.S. blacklist Friday include a leading official in the new municipal government in Crimea’s capital and several officials closely involved in organizing the March vote, the Treasury Department said. Sergei Tsekov, the former vice speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, was also added for his involvement in the vote.
Chernomorneftegaz was a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state-owned gas company with drilling rigs off Crimea’s eastern coast in the Sea of Azov, the Treasury Department said. The Crimean parliament seized its assets in March, in what the department called a “misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine.”