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May 28, 2017

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US and EU strengthen sanctions on Russia over Ukraine

MOSCOW/KIEV/WASHINGTON -- The United States and Europe significantly strengthened sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine Wednesday, with Washington for the first time directly targeting Russia's banking, military and energy sectors.

The new blows against Russia deepened the most serious standoff between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War, as fighting between the Kiev government and pro-Russian separatists threatened to escalate into all-out civil war.

Nearly 50 civilians have been killed in artillery and air strikes across the Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk since the weekend that both sides blame on each other.

Kiev reported the deaths of 11 more servicemen overnight and warned that Russia had deployed thousands of troops along its entire border with Ukraine in preparation for a possible invasion.

The United States said it had no option but to act after Russia refused to take steps to halt both its support for separatists and the cross-border flow of weapons and materiel.

"We have moved to impose additional sanctions on Russia for its actions in violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," said a senior U.S. official on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. measures, Washington's most punitive move against Russia so far in the Ukraine crisis, struck directly at key sectors of the economy.

They included moves against two major Russian financial institutions, Gazprombank and VEB, and two giant Russian energy firms, OA Novatek and Rosneft, which will limit access to U.S. capital markets.

The U.S. Treasury also said that eight Russian arms firms that produce small armaments, mortar shells and tanks would also face direct sanctions.

The U.S. list of sanctions also included measures against the self-styled breakaway Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine.

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