The Obama administration on Monday slapped new sanctions on Russian individuals and companies targeted for their ties to President Vladimir Putin, part of an ongoing attempt to push the Russian leader to stand down in the fight for control of Ukraine.
The new black list, the fourth issued by the U.S. since the crisis began, includes seven government officials, two of them members of Putin’s inner circle, the White House said. The list also cites 17 companies, including oil and infrastructure companies, with close ties to Putin, and imposes new restrictions on some defense exporters.
Senior administration officials say the European Union will also impose new sanctions Monday.
The U.S. sanctions do not target broad sectors of the Russian economy, such as energy or banking, a more aggressive and disruptive move the White House has so far resisted. Speaking Monday during a visit to the Philippines, President Obama repeated threats that such sector sanctions could be the next step if the U.S. sees “further Russian aggression.”
The White House said the penalties were a response to Russia’s “continued illegal intervention in Ukraine and provocative acts that undermine Ukraine’s democracy and threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity.” U.S. and European officials accuse Moscow of backing pro-Russian militia in eastern Ukraine and reneging on a promise to urge the insurgents to withdraw from government buildings and work toward a political resolution.
Since the April 17 agreement, the tension in Ukraine has only escalated. On Monday, hours before the U.S. sanctions were announced, the mayor of Ukraine's second-largest city was shot in the back by insurgents.
The White House strategy has so far been to try to change Russia's course by driving a wedge between Putin and the wealthy Russians who back him. Officials have not said whether they hope to target Putin’s personal wealth, which is believed to be vast but is difficult to track.
Obama said Monday he was not targeting his Russia counterpart.
“The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin personally. The goal is to change his calculus,” he said. “And to encourage him to actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to diplomatically resolving the crisis in Ukraine.”
The new sanctions targeted oligarchs close to Putin, including Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister and now the president of Rosneft, Russia’s leading petroleum company, which was not sanctioned. Sergei Chemezov, head of a state-owned technology and defense firm known as Rostec, was also sanctioned, although Rostec was not. U.S. officials described Chemezov as a long-trusted ally, who has known Putin since the two men lived in the same apartment complex in East Germany in the 1980s.
The list of businesses included two banks, InvestCapitalBank and SMP Bank, both controlled by Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, billionaire brothers and childhood friends of Putin, who were sanctioned last month.
The U.S. also targeted several entities associated with Gennaddy Timchenko, a wealthy founder of a commodities trading firm. Timchenko was already sanctioned for providing assistance to an unnamed “senior official of the government of the Russian Federation.” Timchenko controls several rail, aviation, construction and other infrastructure companies.
As part of the new sanctions, the U.S. will deny or revoke some licenses granted to Russia companies seeking to export high technology defense equipment, officials said. The Commerce Department will also deny or revoke export licenses held by some of the banned companies.
Twitter: @khennesseyCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times