Updated 12:41 p.m. ET
The Obama Administration on Monday leveled new sanctions against individuals and companies close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in what President Barack Obama called part of a “calibrated effort” to pressure Moscow to stop fomenting unrest in Ukraine.
Obama previewed the sanctions during a visit to the Philippines; they had been widely expected ever since he hinted at them last week. Obama said the targeted sanctions would affect Russian individuals and companies, and that they would also affect “high-tech defense exports” to Russia.
“The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin, personally,” Obama said. “The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he’s engaging in in Ukraine could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul.”
But Putin’s top economic adviser said the sanctions were unlikely to hurt Russia’s economy, as they wouldn’t affect government spending, Reuters reports. “There will probably be some consequences [for the economy],” said Kremlin adviser Andrei Belousov. “But it is unlikely that they will have a serious impact on an operational, annual level.”
The White House said in a statement later that the sanctions were targeting seven government officials, including two people in Putin’s “inner circle,” for asset freezes and U.S. visa bans. The sanctions are also targeting 17 companies.
“The international community has been unified in its position that Russia must cease its illegal intervention and provocative actions in Ukraine,” The White House said. “The United States, working closely with its partners, remains prepared to impose still greater costs on Russia if the Russian leadership continues these provocations instead of de-escalating the situation.”
The President also said he hoped the sanctions would “encourage [Putin] to actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to diplomatically resolving the crisis in Ukraine.”
But after previous sanctions failed to change Putin’s behavior, Obama conceded: “We don’t know yet whether it is going to work.”
Obama said that there could be broader sectoral sanctions on the banking and defense industries if Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine continues.
—with reporting from Zeke J. Miller
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