US imposes sanctions against 7 Russians, 17 companies it links to Putin

Written by Reuters | Washington | Updated: Apr 29 2014, 04:02am hrs
The United States on Monday slapped sanctions on seven Russian government officials and 17 companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a fresh attempt to force Moscow to back down from its intervention in Ukraine.

The White House said the third round of sanctions in response to the Ukraine crisis was prompted by Moscow's failure to adhere to an April 17 agreement in Geneva on ways to resolve the situation.

Officials made clear that sanctions against key sections of Russia's economy will be imposed, including the energy and defense sections, should Russia send troops massed along the Ukraine border into eastern Ukraine.

The seven Russians sanctioned include two Putin allies: Igor Sechin, head of Russia's major oil company Rosneft, and Sergei Chemezov, head of Rostec, a Russian state-owned high-tech products company.

The seven are now subject to a freeze on any assets they hold in the United States and a ban on U.S. travel. The 17 companies will be subject to an asset freeze.

Shares on Rosneft promptly fell in response to the sanctions against Sechin.

In addition, the United States will deny export license applications for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russian military capabilities. The Commerce and State Departments will revoke any existing export licenses that meet these conditions, the White House said.

The other people named were Oleg Belavencev, who is Putin's presidential envoy to Crimea, Dmitry Kozak, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, Evgeniy Murov, director of Russia's federal protective service and an army general, Aleksei Pushkov, a state Duma deputy, and Vyacheslav Volodin, a Putin adviser.

The list did not include gas company Gazprom chief Alexei Miller, a close ally of Putin whose name had surfaced as a possible target.

All the U.S. and European sanctions against Russia have been aimed at specific individuals and businesses. U.S. officials said additional sanctions were being held in reserve should they be deemed necessary.

President Barack Obama has drawn fire from Republican critics who think he has not moved aggressively enough in the face of the deepest East-West crisis since the Cold War.

Obama, who is ending a weeklong trip to Asia, has made clear that should Russia launch a military move deeper into Ukraine, the United States will slap sanctions on Russian economic areas such as the financial services, energy, metals and mining, engineering and defense sectors.

"We believe that the impact on the Russian economy will only grow," said a senior Obama administration official.

Senior administration officials told reporters the existing sanctions and threat of more are having an impact on the Russian economy, with the ruble suffering and $60 billion in capital flight from Russia already this year, exceeding the total of last year.

One senior official said European capitals were particularly incensed by the holding by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine of eight international monitors.

"These guys were paraded on television like POWs forced to make a statement to the press. There is broad belief that they have also been abused in captivity. Meanwhile, the Russians have the gall to blame this abuse of people who were in Ukraine at the government of Ukraine's invitation and with diplomatic privileges and immunity on the inability of the Ukrainians to provide security," said a senior official.