TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Hits Putin Aides and Crimea Officials with New Sanctions

President Barack Obama arrives to deliver a statement on Ukraine from the White House in Washington
President Barack Obama arrives to deliver a statement on Ukraine from the White House in Washington, March 17, 2014. Evan Vucci—AP

President Obama has announced a series of economic sanctions are being placed against senior Russian and Crimean officials in response to the referendum approved yesterday by voters in Ukraine's southern pro-Russia region to secede. Among those targeted are two aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin

The United States government is placing economic sanctions on several senior Russian officials a day after Crimea voted to separate from Ukraine and become part of the Russian Federation, President Barack Obama announced Monday.

Seven Russian officials and four Ukrainians are being targeted for sanctions, which will freeze any U.S.-based assets and prohibit Americans from doing business with them. Among those covered by the sanctions are two aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, and Crimean Parliament Speaker Vladimir Konstantinov.

“The are by far the most comprehensive sanctions that have been applied to Russia since the end of the Cold War,” a senior Obama administration official said Monday.

The sanctions come as Obama signed a new executive order broadening the Treasury Department’s sanctions authority to target Russian government officials and the Russian arms sector, as well as “Russian government cronies,” a senior administration official said. On Monday, the European Union imposed sanctions on 21 individuals, some of whom are also covered by the U.S. order.

“We’re making it clear that there are consequences for their actions,” Obama said in a brief statement from the White House Monday morning, adding, “We’ll continue to make clear to Russia that further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia.”

The American government rejected the results of Sunday’s “so-called referendum,” arguing that any effort to redraw Ukraine’s borders without the involvement of the government in Kiev is illegal under international law. Obama has promised to impose “costs” for the vote as well as Russia’s takeover of Crimea and incursions into Eastern Ukraine. American officials alleged that there is some evidence that ballots in several Crimean cities were pre-marked in support of the separatist movement.

“We have fashioned these sanctions to impose costs on named individuals who wield influence in the Russian government and those responsible for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

But the sanctions announced Monday are largely symbolic, with those targeted unlikely to feel significant pain given they lack major asset holdings in the United States.

Still, on a conference call with reporters, senior administration official stressed the “market-imposed” costs of the ongoing crisis on the Russian economy. Russia’s main stock market has fallen more than 14 percent in the last month. 
American officials pointed to the comments of Russian Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Belyakov Monday, reported by Reuters, saying the country’s economy “shows clear signs of a crisis.”

“Frankly, Russia stands a lot more to lost from political and economic isolation than the United States,” one official said of Russian threats to impose retaliatory action on the United States.

Additionally, a senior administration official said the new executive order provides the U.S. with a so-called “crony capacity” to target private individuals who back the Russian government, which would substantially pressure the Kremlin. “Going forward we have the ability to ramp up our pressure,” one American official said, adding that they can be deescalated if the Russian government reverses course.

The list of those hit by American sanctions Monday:

  • Vladislav Surkov: Surkov is being sanctioned for his status as a Presidential Aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Sergey Glazyev: Glazyev is being sanctioned for his status as a Presidential Adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Leonid Slutsky: Slutsky is being sanctioned for his status as a State Duma deputy, where he is Chairman of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration, and Relations with Compatriots.
  • Andrei Klishas: Klishas is being sanctioned for his status as a Member of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and as Chairman of the Federation Council Committee of Constitutional Law, Judicial, and Legal Affairs, and the Development of Civil Society.
  • Valentina Matviyenko: Matviyenko is being sanctioned for her status as Head of the Federation Council
  • Dmitry Rogozin: Rogozin is being sanctioned for his status as the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.
  • Yelena Mizulina: Mizulina is being sanctioned for her status as a State Duma Deputy.
  • Sergey Aksyonov: Aksyonov is being designated for threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine’s democratic institutions and processes. Aksyonov claims to be the Prime Minister of Crimea and has rejected the authority of the legitimate government in Kyiv.
  • Vladimir Konstantinov: Konstantinov is being designated for threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine’s democratic institutions and processes. Konstantinov is the speaker of the Crimean parliament, which on March 11, 2014, declared independence from Ukraine.
  • Viktor Medvedchuk: Medvedchuk, leader of Ukrainian Choice, is being designated for threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine’s democratic institutions and processes. He is also being designated because he has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support to Yanukovych and because he is a leader of an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine and actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine.
  • Viktor Yanukovych: Former Ukrainian President Yanukovych is being designated for threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine’s democratic institutions and processes. After abandoning Kyiv and ultimately fleeing to Russia, Viktor Yanukovych called upon Russian President Vladimir Putin to send Russian troops into Ukraine.

A Twitter account purported to be written by Dmitry Rogozin, one of the officials sanctioned on Monday, published a defiant reaction to Obama’s announcement:

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