WASHINGTON (AP) — In the most comprehensive sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War, President Barack Obama yesterday froze the U.S. assets of seven Russian officials, including top advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for their support of Crimea’s vote to secede from Ukraine.
Obama said he was moving to “increase the cost” to Russia, and he warned that more people could face financial punishment.
“If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions,” Obama said. He added in a brief statement from the White House that he still believes there could be a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and that the sanctions can be calibrated based on whether Russia escalates or pulls back in its involvement.
The Treasury Department also is imposing sanctions on four Ukrainians — including former President Viktor Yanukovych and others who have supported Crimea’s separation — under existing authority under a previous Obama order.
“We are imposing sanctions on specific individuals responsible for undermining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and government of Ukraine. We’re making it clear that there are consequences for their actions,” Obama said.
But he’s not going far enough, said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., just back from a weekend trip to Kiev.
“I think Vladimir Putin must be encouraged by the absolute timidity,” McCain said on MSNBC. He said of Obama’s response, “I don’t know how it could have been weaker, besides doing nothing — seven people being sanctioned after naked aggression has taken place.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney did not rule out future sanctions against Putin himself.
“We have the authorities to more broadly identify individuals and entities in the future, and we will do that as necessary if the costs to Russia need to be increased,” Carney said.
Officials speaking to reporters on a conference call on the condition they not be quoted by name, say those sanctioned are very close to Putin and that the sanctions are “designed to hit close to home.”