TIME Afghanistan

Nine Dead in a Hotel Bloodbath: Welcome to Campaign Season in Kabul

An Afghan security personnel keeps watch near the Serena hotel, during an attack in Kabul
An Afghan soldier keeps watch near the Serena hotel, during an attack in Kabul, March 20, 2014. Taliban gunmen claimed nine lives. Ahmad Masood—Reuters

Four gunmen with pistols in their boots passed through security undetected at the Serena hotel in Afghanistan's capital to kill nine its worst attack in years, the latest in a string of high-profile targets that have cast a grim shadow over the upcoming elections

Four gunmen passed through heavy security at a luxury hotel in central Kabul on Thursday evening, opening fire on guests and staff and killing nine civilians, including four foreigners, according to officials in Kabul on Friday morning. At least four others were also injured in the attack.

Police say the four young men had hidden pistols in their boots and passed through security at the Serena hotel undetected. The government says they hid out in the hotel for hours before about 9 p.m., when guests reported hearing several gunshots. All four gunmen were killed.

The Serena is popular with foreigners, diplomats and affluent Afghans and, despite heavy security, has been the target of attacks before.

The Taliban was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, which comes just weeks before Afghans are due to go to the polls on Apr. 5 to elect a new president. On Mar. 10, the militant group vowed to use “all force” to disrupt the elections, claiming that whoever succeeded President Hamid Karzai would be a proxy for the United States. “It is the religious obligation of every Afghan to fulfill their duty by foiling the latest plot of the invaders that is [disguised] in the garb of elections,” the statement said.

(MORE: AFP Reporter Killed in Serena Hotel attack)

According to AFP, earlier in the day the Taliban attacked a police station in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 18. In a three-hour siege of the station in the middle of the city, ten police officers and one civilian were killed, along with the seven suicide attackers.

A string of recent attacks on high-profile targets, including security installations and foreigners, has cast a shadow over what will be the country’s first democratic transfer of power since 2001. In January, Taliban fighters stormed a popular Lebanese restaurant in a diplomatic enclave in Kabul, killing 21, mostly foreigners. Earlier this month, Swedish journalist Nils Horner was murdered in the same area. (A Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility for that attack.)

Election-related violence has also been on the upswing in recent weeks. As the presidential candidates hold rallies around the nation, several campaigners have been killed and injured. On Mar. 12, four members of the Independent Election Commission were kidnapped in eastern Nangarhar province next door to Pakistan. The last presidential elections in 2009 were marred by fraud, violence and voter intimidation.

The growing state of insecurity ahead of this vote will once again keep many voters in unstable parts of the country away from the polls. It also opens up the doors for more foul play, which will ultimately weaken the mandate of whatever government comes to power, says Wahid Mozhda, an analyst and former foreign ministry official in the Taliban government. “If no monitors can go watch, people can stuff boxes.” He says in 2009, political forces – not just the Taliban – were involved in the intimidation of civilians to disrupt the vote, and expects worse this time around.

TIME Turkey

Turkey Bans Twitter

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets the crowd during a local election rally organized by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Mersin, Turkey on March 13, 2014 Kayhan Ozer—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated his intention to block the social micropublishing network—"We'll eradicate it"—hours before cutting if off. During mass demonstrations in Istanbul over the summer, he labeled social media society's "worst menace"

The Turkish Prime Minister has banned Twitter across the country. Twitter was blocked just after midnight in Turkey on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stated his intention to block the social media platform—which has been an essential means of communication and organization in Turkey—12 hours before actually cutting if off, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News. “We now have a court order. We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic,” Erdogan said at a campaign rally in Bursa on March 20.

Those who tried to access Twitter were taken to a statement from Turkey’s telecommunications regulator that cites court orders allowing the government to ban Twitter.

On Friday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul tweeted his own thought on the matter, quite different from Erdogan: “One cannot approve of the complete closure of social media platforms,” he wrote, adding that only individual web pages should be blocked if a court order is in place specifically regarding the violation of an person’s privacy.

In 2013, during the Occupy Gezi protests, Erdogan called all of social media “the worst menace to society.” This ban comes just before the local elections in Istanbul on March 30 and shortly after the February protests in Taksim Square in Istanbul against a controversial Internet law. The new law makes bans such as this illegal.

“The ban started after midnight and got into effect gradually depending which internet providers they used, but it’s a court order (actually four different courts) which means every provider, including GSM companies, are obliged to implement this ban,” Turkish journalist Erdem Arda Gunes told the Daily Dot.

Erdogan’s office said in a statement that Twitter failed to follow Turkish court orders that sought Twitter to remove some links on their site. “If Twitter officials insist on not implementing court orders and rules of law … there will be no other option but to prevent access to Twitter to help satisfy our citizens’ grievances,” the statement said.

Twitter told Reuters they were investigating the issue but had not official statement. The San Francisco-based company has offered an alternate method for tweeters in Turkey to use the platform:

However, those who cannot access Twitter in Turkey will likely not see the alternate method offered by the company.

Erdogan threatened two weeks ago to ban Facebook and YouTube along with Twitter, according to Reuters. After incriminating audio recordings revealing corruption inside his government popped up on these services, Erdogan said his enemies were abusing the platforms.

[Reuters]

TIME russia

4 Lessons Putin Will Take From U.S. Sanctions

Russia's President Vladimir Putin And Russian Billionaires At Russia Business Week Conference
Andrey Rudakov—Bloomberg/Getty Images

After President Obama announced a new round of targeted sanctions against Russian, the U.S. Treasury Department published a blacklist of 16 government officials and four members of what it called the President Vladimir Putin's "inner circle"

On Monday, the Obama Administration moved to punish Russia for annexing the region of Crimea with a round of financial sanctions. The reply from Moscow’s political elites was either a laugh or a shrug. None of the individuals targeted that time were particularly close to President Vladimir Putin, nor were they senior enough to threaten his entire hierarchy. But the laughter turned to consternation on Thursday after the latest round of U.S. sanctions.

On its website, the U.S. Treasury Department published a blacklist of 16 government officials and four members of what it called Putin’s “inner circle.” It was an impressive list, and the implicit threats of what’s to come were even more pointed than the asset freezes it imposed. Here are a few that Putin could find between the lines of the sanctions list:

1. Now it’s personal. It’s not just about Crimea or Ukraine anymore. It’s not even about punishing Russia’s economy. It’s about making life as uncomfortable as possible for Putin and his closest friends.

In its explanation of the blacklist, the U.S. Treasury Department refers to a place called the Ozero Dacha Collective, a gated community of lakeside villas that Putin and his pals set up near St. Petersburg in 1996. At the time, Putin was just making his move from his hometown, where he’d served as a functionary in the mayor’s office, to a position in the Kremlin. Many of his old friends moved with him to the capital, and as Putin’s influence grew, so too did the fortunes of the Ozero Collective. Many of the men who had summer homes next to Putin in that community went on to become billionaires or senior officials under his rule, and the word ozero, which means lake in Russian, has become almost synonymous with nepotism in the Putin era.

The Obama Administration’s direct assault on the members of Putin’s clique goes to the core of Putin’s inner circle, and for a man as loyal to his friends as Putin has been through the years, that will turn this conflict into a personal grudge.

2. Secrets are no longer safe. Few state secrets are as carefully guarded in Russia as the personal finances of its President. Though rumors and unconfirmed reports have pegged Putin’s personal fortune at around $40 billion, the Kremlin has always maintained that its master is a civil servant of modest means, earning less than $200,000 in 2012 and owning only one Russian-made car.

But in its statement on Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department stated that Putin has investments in a company called Gunvor, one of the biggest oil traders in the world. That is not public information, and although the U.S. government hasn’t given its source, this little bombshell comes with an implicit warning: The White House knows things about Putin’s wealth that he does not want going public.

3. Insiders are not immune. Last year, Putin tried to preempt Western sanctions against Russia’s elites. In his state of the nation address, he ordered all state officials to close their foreign bank accounts and bring their assets home. The move was meant to give the Kremlin some immunity from the unrest that Western blacklists are designed to spread through the halls of power. And even if his officials did not comply with that directive, they would be left in no position to complain when those sanctions hit — Putin had already warned them this was coming.

But that vaccine does not seem to have worked against the sanctions leveled on Thursday. The targets this time included not just officials, but companies and institutions that do not have the option of bringing their assets home. Bank Rossiya, a lender run by one of Putin’s close associates, will have a hard time operating internationally now that its access to U.S. capital markets are restricted. So will the companies of the billionaire Rotenberg brothers, Putin’s childhood friends, who are both on the blacklist.

4. Anyone could be a target. The list of sanctioned individuals is astounding in part for its randomness. In addition to Putin’s ex-KGB confidants and judo buddies, it includes such obscure politicians as Aleksandr Totoonov, a member of the culture, science and information committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament. Why him? The only reason given in the statement is that he supported the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine. But so did practically every single lawmaker in Russia, so all of them are now fair game.

At least publicly, both houses of the Russian parliament have defied this threat, openly calling for the U.S. to blacklist all their members in solidarity with their sanctioned colleagues. But in private, many of them have likely been making calls to their bankers and real estate agents to figure out what assets they now stand to lose.

TIME Syria

Syria Loses Internet, Again

Syria was cut off from the Internet, marking the second time in a month that the war-torn country has gone dark, according to monitoring groups. Internet blackouts have in the past coincided with Syrian military operations

Multiple monitoring groups reported Thursday that Syria was cut off from the Internet, marking the second time in a month that the war-torn country has gone dark.

The Internet monitor Renesys said 95% of Syria’s networks went down beginning at 8:26 ET. Google also shows traffic from the country dropping around that time and picking up only around 3:30 p.m.

Internet blackouts occur with some frequency in Syria—the last reported instance was Feb. 20, according to Mashable—and have in the past coincided with Syrian military operations, though the government typically blames technical problems.

A Renesys researcher, Doug Madory, told Mashable that the link from Aleppo to Turkey was the only working connection, which “is consistent with outages over the past few months.”

TIME Afghanistan

Gunmen Storm Luxury Hotel in Kabul

AFGHANISTAN-UNREST-HOTEL
An Afghan policeman stands guard near the security perimeter setup around the Serena hotel in Kabul late on March 21, 2014. Shah Marai—AFP/Getty Images

Authorities say four assailants were killed and there were no known other deaths. The Kabul hotel, which regularly houses foreign delegations, is hosting United Nations staffers in the country to monitor upcoming elections

Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul on Thursday in the most recent attack on foreigners, but authorities say four assailants were killed and there were no known other deaths.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told Reuters that two guards were injured at the Serena hotel, in the center of the capital. He said the attackers, who appeared younger than 18, entered with pistols in their socks and waited three hours before firing their weapons.

The hotel regularly houses foreign delegations and is currently hosting United Nations staffers in the country to monitor upcoming elections, according to BBC.

In January, a bomb killed 21 people at a restaurant popular among foreigners, shattering a sense of relative security for foreigners in the Afghan capital. Earlier this month, a British-Swedish journalist was shot dead in broad daylight in Kabul.

[Reuters]

TIME Turkey

Turkey’s Erdogan Now Says He’ll Shut Down Twitter, Too

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses the crowd during an opening ceremony of a new metro line in Ankara on March 13, 2014.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses the crowd during an opening ceremony of a new metro line in Ankara on March 13, 2014. Umit Bektas—Reuters

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday he’ll shut down Twitter in the country, after audio recordings surfaced that implicated him in a corruption scandal. “I don’t care what the international community says," he added

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted Thursday as saying he’ll shut down Twitter in the country, two weeks after he backpedaled on threats to ban Facebook and YouTube.

“We now have a court order. We’ll eradicate Twitter, “ he said at a campaign rally in the western city of Bursa ahead of local elections, Hurriyet Daily News reports. “I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.”

The prime minister’s feud with the popular social media sites was sparked earlier this month after audio recordings that purportedly implicated him in a recent corruption scandal surfaced online. Erdogan has denied involvement and said the recordings were fabricated.

[Hurriyet Daily News]

TIME Iran

Iran Marks Persian New Year With a Looming Economic Crisis

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a message for the Iranian New Year, in Tehran, March 20, 2014.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a message for the Iranian New Year, in Tehran, March 20, 2014. Office of the Iranian Presidency—AP

On Friday, the day Iranians celebrate Nowruz, or Persian New Year, Iran's government will enact massive cuts to food and energy subsidies that will hit Iranian consumers hard and may make things difficult for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

In the seven months since Hassan Rouhani took office as President of Iran, his country’s economy has taken a slight turn for the better. Inflation dropped from 43 percent to 33 percent, while an interim agreement with world powers on Iran’s nuclear program produced some relief from sanctions and access to a portion of previously blocked oil revenues.

But those gains–and the vital stability they brought to the country’s troubled economy—may be short-lived. On Friday, timed to the Iranian new year celebration of Nowruz, the government’s 2014 budget takes effect, bringing with it new cuts in subsidies on food, fuel, energy and utilities. The cuts, once phased in over the coming weeks, will sharply ratchet up prices paid by ordinary citizens. The price of fuel is expected to rise by 71 percent. The next electricity bill an Iranian opens will be 24 percent higher. Water is going up 20 percent.

All told, Tehran will stop spending $25 billion it had been spending to hold down the price of essential goods and services. Instead, consumers will be exposed to something closer to real market prices—and Rouhani to the wrath of an Iranian public already strapped for cash.

“People just don’t have enough money to spend,” says Houman Kordestani, sales manager of Iran Tissue Company. He stood in his stall at the Tehran Mosalla New Year Sales Fair, an annual affair offering discounts in advance of the March 21 Nowruz holiday, and so sparsely attended this year that salesmen spent most of their time talking to one another, or staring at their phones. “In the last 19 days I’ve only sold 130 million Rials ($5,200),” says Kordestani. “It won’t even pay for my stall let alone the 4 employees I’ve got here.

“We thought it would be better with the new president.”

Rouhani campaigned on a platform that promised to improve Iran’s long dysfunctional economy by reducing the country’s international isolation. Negotiations aimed at reassuring the West about Iran’s nuclear program, which Washington and others fear could produce atomic weapons, are meant to free Iran from the crippling economic sanctions that still cost Iran $8 billion a month in lost revenue, on top of $60 billion in assets frozen overseas.

The latest round of talks, aimed at a permanent settlement, concluded on an upbeat note in Vienna on Wednesday, with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif saying he saw “signs” of a comprehensive agreement by the July deadline. By then, public pressure for a deal may be increasing in Iran, as consumers stung by the loss of subsidies look for relief from lowered sanctions.

“In the present circumstances of Iran’s economy, my only hope is that the nuclear talks are successful,” says a manufacturer of canned tuna at the fair, speaking anonymously out of fear of political repercussions. The factory owner said he had to fire most of his employees after his production sagged badly after a first round of subsidy cuts, in 2010. Carried out under Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, those subsidy cuts hastened the political demise of the conservative president, who had run as a man of the people.

“Before my customers used to buy tuna by the box,” the factory owner says. “After the first round of subsidy reforms they just buy two or three cans. If the next round of reforms is anything like the last one I’ll have to pack up next year.” His factory has shrunk from 98 workers producing 10 tons daily to a payroll of 25 and 2 tons a day, he says.

Lawmakers have tried to take some of the edge off the cuts. The $25 billion being removed from the budget is a fraction of the $70 billion (some estimates say $100 billion) that Iran’s government spends on subsidies. And expected price increases are intended to be less drastic than four years ago. Also, as in 2010, the impact of the lost subsidies will be softened to some extent by direct cash payments to low-income Iranians. Legislators also are directing money formerly spent on subsidies to go to health care and the country’s relatively small private sector—the Iranian economy is still dominated by the government.

Still, economists fear the cuts will result in the inflationary spike that occurred in the 2010 round, and was aggravated by the loss in value of the Iranian Rial because of sanctions.

“The objectives of the plan are good ones but the method has major flaws,” says Mohammad Khoshchehreh, a professor in Tehran University Faculty of Economics and former lawmaker. “In its present form this plan will increase inflation and liquidity, and force producers in the private sector out of the market.”

The cleric who holds ultimate power in Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has cast the shared hardship as a patriotic enterprise, declaring a “Resistance Economy.” The program’s 24 points include reducing dependence on oil, boosting manufacturing and diversifying imports. “If Islamic Iran follows the policies of resistance economy, not only will it overcome all economic problems, but will also defeat the enemy, who is waging an all-out economic war against our great nation,” reads the communiqué posted Feb. 19 on Khamenei’s official website.

But Khamenei, who was appointed to his office by a panel of clerics 25 years ago, does not have to worry about re-election. Rouhani’s four-year term may have only begun in August, but it may well be decided by the blend of economic and foreign policy challenges that defined his campaign. Iranians, at least, see the topics as one.

“Rouhani has entered the nuclear talks with sincerity and moderation; he is trying to rebuild Iran’s international relations,” says Khoshchehreh, the economist. “However if he is rebuffed again as he was in the 2003 negotiations [which Rouhani led as Khamenei’s chief nuclear negotiator], than Iran’s moderation will be replaced with hard-line positions just as Ahmadinejad replaced the reformist government behind the 2003 talks.”

TIME Greece

Tech Start-Ups Bloom in Recession-Hit Greece

The Greek economy is reeling from six years of recession, with youth unemployment around 60 percent, but a new wave of startups could be just the thing to turn the economy around

A year ago, when Greek start-up Workable had secured their initial funding deal, the company’s headquarters consisted of six guys – including the two founders, Nikos Moraitakis and Spyros Magiatis – in three barely furnished rooms. These days, 16 of Workable’s 18 employees fill a grander, yet still conspicuously relaxed office space on two floors in the plush Athenian district of Psychico. The new office has lofty views, an abundance of couches and beanbags. People walk around in flip-flops or bare feet. The company, which offers business clients user-friendly software to facilitate the hiring process, recently opened satellite offices in London and Portland, Oregon, and has just announced a $1.5 million funding round led by the venture capital fund Greylock IL.

For a Greek economy reeling from six years of recession, start-ups like Workable may offer hope for the future. The prospects of employment in government or with an established company have become less appealing and less likely for the droves of well-educated IT engineers produced by Greece’s universities. Unemployment in Greece stands at 27.5 percent, and youth unemployment has hovered around 60 percent for months. The country’s start-up sector is small, far too small to make a dent in the staggering joblessness numbers, but it is growing rapidly.

The turning point was the creation of four EU-backed venture capital funds in December 2012 that specifically target technology start-ups in Greece. Workable’s initial funding round came largely from one of these, JEREMIE-Openfund II, which has 11 million euros under management (70 percent from the EU), and which has already funded eight Greek start-ups in as many months. Aristos Doxiadis, an economist and a general partner at the fund, said its initial target was to invest in 25-30 companies by the end of 2015, which he feared might prove too ambitious, but is now well on track to being met. The three other funds are larger, managing between 17 and 30 million euros. The evolution has not been without its growing pains – among them a dearth of experienced investors – but in the past year, start-up growth has outpaced expectations.

Now, the highest-flying among Greece’s start-ups are already spreading beyond the local scene, led by deals like Workable’s funding round from Greylock. “It is certainly a boost for the local start-up ecosystem,” says Moraitakis, Workable’s 36-year old CEO, who has a degree in Software Engineering from Imperial College in London. Along with co-founder Magiatis, he previously worked at Upstream, a Greek mobile marketing company that serves operators in more than 40 markets.

The Greylock deal is the latest in a series of international successes for Greek start-ups. Last September, US-based software Company Splunk acquired Bug Sense, a mobile app analytics company. Taxibeat, a digital taxi-hailing application, secured $4 million in funding led by the European fund Hummingbird Ventures. “It’s not that big investors will suddenly put money in other Greek tech companies just because they come from the same place we do,” Moraitakis explains. “But it will help open doors for them.”

In fact, the deal already seems to have had a ripple effect. “After it was made public, a number of big players on the European venture capital circuit began asking us what other promising companies we can tell them about,” says Doxiadis of Openfund II, which also contributed to Workable’s current round of funding. Greylock IL, an affiliate of Silicon Valley-based Greylock Partners – one of the biggest venture capital firms in the world with over $2 billion under management, and among the most discerning investors in the new digital economy – has backed companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Dropbox. Its portfolio consists of 30 Israeli firms and only 9 European companies, including Workable.

Workable was founded in June 2012, a few days before the critical, repeat parliamentary elections in Greece that many thought would lead to its exit from the euro. Moraitakis came home to Athens from Dubai, where we has working for Upstream, just as the election campaign for the initial May poll was getting under way. His friends thought he was crazy. These days, having bucked the emigration trend, he is busy trying to engineer what he calls a “reverse brain drain” – bringing other talented Greeks back to Athens.

The first meeting between Workable’s founders and Greylock took place in November 2012 in London, when the company was still at a very early stage of development. The fund kept its eye on Workable’s product development, in particular its suitability for small and medium-sized firms that do not have dedicated HR departments. They saw the high rates of growth: in early 2014, the month-on-month increase in clients has reached 30%. That performance prompted investment despite Greece’s less than stellar reputation as a place to do business.

Greece’s economy is still very troubled; however, the ingredients are there for a startup that may turn out to be a world beater, and venture capitalists are taking notice. “We feel there are benefits to Greece,” says Tilly Kalisky, associate partner at Greylock IL. “There is qualified engineering talent at competitive costs compared to European and US equivalents. We feel that excellent entrepreneurs and companies can be created from anywhere.”

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Ups Sanctions on Russian Government and ‘Cronies’

U.S. President Barack Obama announces additional sanctions against Russia on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 20, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama announces additional sanctions against Russia on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 20, 2014. Jim Lo Scalzo—EPA

President Barack Obama announced broader economic sanctions today on Russian officials and their economy as President Vladimir Putin continues to formalize the annexation of Crimea. Russia also announced sanctions against top U.S. officials

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he has ordered increased sanctions on Russian officials and authorized sanctions on the country’s economy that could be implemented later, as Russia began steps to formalize its annexation of the breakaway Crimea region from Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters before boarding Marine One for a trip to Florida, Obama said the United States government has added to a list of Russian senior officials subject to economic sanctions, and has also imposed new sanctions on a Russian bank and several Russian individuals close to the government of President Vladimir Putin. Obama also signed a new executive order authorizing new sanctions on “key sectors of the Russian economy,” though those sanctions have yet to be imposed.

“Mr. Putin needs to understand that Ukrainians shouldn’t have to chose between the west and Russia,” Obama said, saying the U.S. remains “deeply concerned’ by Russian threats to Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

Obama ruled out military intervention in the region on Wednesday.

Obama reiterated Thursday that the U.S. rejects the results of Sunday’s “illegal” Crimean referendum to split from Ukraine, and Russia’s “illegitimate” steps to annex the peninsula weeks after Russian forces took control of the contested peninsula. Obama has pledged to impose additional “costs” on the Russian government as the crisis continues. On Monday, top aides to Putin were hit by U.S. economic sanctions, which were laughed off by those impacted.

“Nobody should believe that this is the end of what we are prepared to do under the executive order,” a senior administration official said. “It’s only the beginning.”

Among those sanctioned are Russian billionaires Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, Russian Railways president and Putin confidant Vladimir Yakunin, and Yuri Kovalchuk, the head of Bank Rossiya, described by senior administration officials as “Putin’s personal banker.” That bank is also subject to sanctions.

In response to the fresh U.S. sanctions, Russia announced sanctions Thursday against several top American officials, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Ariz. Sen. John McCain, N.J. Sen. Bob Menendez, La. Sen. Mary Landrieu, Ind. Sen. Dan Coats., White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer and White House Deputy National Security Advisor Caroline Atkinson.

“The Speaker is proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against Putin’s aggression,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel of the Russian sanctions against his boss.

American officials said that while some of those sanctioned on Monday may have scoffed at the U.S. effort, those hit Thursday will feel the pain. American officials said they will pursue economic sanctions against Russia itself “with care” if they are needed, saying they are aware such moves could have a global economic impact.

According to senior administration officials, the Russian economic sectors that could be hit by sanctions include financial services, energy, metals and mining, defense and related material, and engineering.

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