Obama: Russia falling short on Ukraine, new sanctions imposed


President Obama

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WASHINGTON — Russia has failed to take steps to end the Ukraine conflict, President Barack Obama said Wednesday in announcing expanded sanctions targeting two banks, two energy companies, Ukraine separatists and defense companies.

“What we are expecting is that the Russian leadership will see once again that its actions in Ukraine have consequences, including a weakening economy, and increasing diplomatic isolation,” Obama told reporters at the White House.

Earlier, the Treasury Department said the escalated sanctions involved Russia’s “continued attempts to destabilize eastern Ukraine” and its “ongoing occupation of Crimea.”

The latest action targets some of Russia’s largest banks and energy companies, including Gazprom Bank, Novotek and Rosneft. They will not be able to raise debt or get new financing via the United States. Arms entities were also included.

“Russia has continued to destabilize Ukraine and provide support for the separatists, despite its statements to the contrary,” said David Cohen, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial Intelligence.

Treasury said it has “increased the cost of economic isolation” for Russian firms that value “access to medium- and long-term” sources of financing in the United States.

The United States and Europe have imposed a range of sanctions already in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea this spring and its massing of troops along its eastern border. Those have included asset freezes and travel bans.

Russia and Ukraine have since been engaged in a tense standoff.

In recent months, there have been pro-Russian separatist stirrings in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Some of the sanctions announced Wednesday targeted separatists groups in those areas.

The European Union also announced Wednesday it would step up sanctions, pending final decisions on specific action.

Ukraine’s government in Kiev has accused Russia of allowing weapons and military equipment, including tanks, to cross the border illegally into the hands of pro-Russian separatists.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday that there are now about 12,000 Russian troops on the border as well as some heavy weapons. The troop numbers had fallen to about 1,000.

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