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September 21, 2017

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Obama levies new sanctions on Russia

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States is levying a new round of economic sanctions on individuals in Russia, both inside and outside the government, in retaliation for the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine.

Obama says he has also signed a new executive order that would allow the U.S. to sanction key sectors of the Russian economy.

Russian Lower House Ratifies Treaty on Taking Crimea

Russia's lower house of parliament on Thursday ratified the treaty incorporating Crimea into Russian territory, with just one deputy voting against.

The Duma also approved a new law on the absorption of Crimea into Russia. Russia's Constitutional Court chairman, Valery Zorkin, said Wednesday the treaty signed by Putin has been ruled valid. The treaty and law still need to be rubber-stamped by the upper house Federation Council on Friday.

Out of 446 deputies voting, 445 voted to approve Russia's taking of Crimea and just one against, Ilya Ponomarev of the A Just Russia Party. Four deputies were absent from the 450-seat Duma.

"Today Russia has made a huge mistake which could prove tragic for the brotherly Russian and Ukrainian peoples, for all of Slavic unity and for the whole system of international relations," Ponomarev said.

"Future generations will pay for mistakes that are made now," he said.

Ponomarev said it would have been right to have first recognized Crimea's independence "and then wait a bit for things to calm down and convince everyone that this is not a Russia aggression... and then take the next step."

He said huge numbers of people in the Russian authorities, foreign ministry and security services understood the danger of the hurried move "but are scared of expressing their opinion."

No US Military Action: Obama

Obama warned Wednesday that Russian "might is not right" but ruled out any US military action in Ukraine.

Obama said in an interview with California NBC television outlet KNSD that Russia had violated another country's sovereignty by marching into Crimea.

But he reiterated that "we are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine."

Obama cautioned that "even the Ukrainians would acknowledge that for us to engage Russia militarily would not be appropriate and wouldn't be good for Ukraine either."

Ukraine Plans for Pullout

Ukraine announced plans Wednesday for mass troop withdrawals from the strategic peninsula. On Wednesday morning, militiamen under apparent Russian command barged their way into Ukraine's naval headquarters in Sevastopol, detaining the head of Ukraine's navy and seizing the facility. Forlorn Ukrainian soldiers streamed out carrying clothing and other belongings.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Rear Adm. Sergei Haiduk was detained. Later in the day, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the Crimean authorities to release Haiduk.

Ukraine lashed out symbolically at Russia by declaring its intent to leave the Moscow-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States. The last nation to leave the group was Georgia.

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