WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government will ban Russian officials and others involved in "threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine" from receiving U.S. visas, the White House announced Thursday.
The move, which adds to existing visa restrictions on people involved in human rights abuses in Ukraine, marks a further escalation of U.S. pressure on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, where Russian gunmen have seized control of the strategic Crimean peninsula.
In a statement, the White House said President Obama had signed an executive order that allows the government to impose sanctions on individuals and groups responsible for "undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine; threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; contributing to the misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine."
The sanctions also apply to those who have asserted "governmental authority" over any part of Ukraine without approval from the new government in Kiev, the White House said.
In statements issued Thursday, the administration did not name individuals or groups affected by the new penalties. But officials have repeatedly said they intend to ramp up pressure on people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who the U.S. accuses of breaking international law by sending troops into the Crimean peninsula, a region in southern Ukraine that has a Russian-speaking majority.
The White House statement repeated the U.S. call on Russia “to take the opportunity before it to resolve this crisis through direct and immediate dialogue” with the government in Kiev along with “the immediate pull-back of Russia’s military forces to their bases, the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and support for the urgent deployment of international observers and human rights monitors who can assure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times