With Sanctions, Obama Aims For Those Close To Putin

The Obama administration is ordering new sanctions against 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials. The move is designed to penalize Russia for efforts to split Crimea away from Ukraine.

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President Obama has been warning for weeks that Russia will pay a price for its actions in Ukraine. Today, the administration ordered sanctions against high-ranking Russian officials. The president's order freezes those officials' assets in the United States. NPR's Scott Horsley reports that it also prohibits Americans from doing business with them.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The new sanctions are designed to strike close to home for Vladimir Putin. The seven named targets include allies and advisors of the Russian President. The administration also took aim at people involved in the Russian arms trade as well as others the White House describes as Putin cronies. In addition, the administration named four Ukrainians whose assets are to be frozen under an earlier sanctions order. Those include the former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and two leaders of the Crimean separatist movement.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: 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.

HORSLEY: President Obama announced the sanctions within hours of what White House officials are dismissing as Crimea's so-called referendum to break away from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Administration officials pointed to irregularities in yesterday's voting, including charges of pre-marked ballots and, in one city, a yes count that exceeded the total population. More importantly, Obama argues any decision about the future of Ukraine must be made by all the Ukrainian people.

OBAMA: As I told President Putin yesterday, the referendum in Crimea was a clear violation of Ukrainian constitutions and international law, and it will not be recognized by the international community.

HORSLEY: Obama warned of additional sanctions if Russia tries to annex Crimea or sends its military troops deeper into Ukraine. The European Union announced its own economic crackdown on 21 individuals, including some who were also targeted by the United States.

OBAMA: The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. And continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia's diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy.

HORSLEY: An administration official notes both the Russian stock market and currency have taken a beating in recent weeks. Russian stocks rebounded a bit today, though, in what could be a sign that investors had been expecting more severe sanctions from the West. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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