Russia Faces Further Sanction Over Its Actions In Ukraine

U.S. and European Union officials are meeting to impose more sanctions on Russia. At the same time, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine continue to hold a group of European military observers.

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The White House this morning announced new sanctions against Russia. Those targeted include companies and individuals close to President Vladimir Putin and among them is the head of Rosneff, the world's largest oil producing company. Russia's deputy foreign ministry expressed disgust at this move, which is being made in response to Russia's role in Ukraine, in the crisis there. And we're going to take a look now at the actions of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. They spent the weekend seizing more buildings and more prisoners. The acts by these groups have raised the possibility of civil war in Russia's neighbor.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. And we go to her now.

And Soraya, you've seen at least one of these pro-Russian operations yourself. What'd you see?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, that happened yesterday evening. And what basically happened is that these separatists - who were wearing masks and who also were wearing camouflage - carrying sticks and shields, stormed the TV and radio station building here. This is the regional state TV and radio outlet. And basically they ran inside. The station manager came out and he said some of his workers were still inside, they're still broadcasting. He looked pretty nervous when he was talking. And he said there's like a mask in the control room sort of watching what's being said.

We tried to ask the occupiers to what it is that they were doing. The separatists, not surprisingly, refused comment. But we did talk to one supporter who was with them at the station, and his name is Gregory Yarovoy.

GREGORY YAROVOY: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: He says that they are getting rid of this Ukrainian broadcaster because it twists the facts. He basically described what they were broadcasting as heresy. And he says that people here Donetsk do deserve to know the truth. And what he means by that is that the Russian version of affairs here is what they would like to see broadcast.

INSKEEP: So did police in this Eastern Ukrainian city try to stop these intruders from storming the state broadcaster?

NELSON: Absolutely not. I mean they sort of stood to one side, as did the security guards at the station. I don't think it necessarily means that they're sympathetic to the separatists, but they just don't feel that they can control the situation. So they sort of stood around but they didn't do anything. And they were actually talking to the occupiers.

INSKEEP: So you witnessed the takeover of a TV and radio station. Also this past weekend, in another part of Eastern Ukraine, these pro-Russian gunmen captured a military team linked with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Why capture them?

NELSON: Well, these separatists accused some of the people on board of being NATO spies. They didn't feel this was part of an official mission of any sort. And so that's what these separatists were saying. Of course the Ukrainian government is declaring that the separatists are using these people as human shields.

They're in the city of Slavyansk. And what the separatists did yesterday is parade these captives out for the journalists to see. And the team's German leader, Colonel Axel Schneider, looked rather nervous as he addressed the journalists in the occupied city hall yesterday.

COLONEL AXEL SCHNEIDER: We have not been touched and we have been treated as the maximum extent which is possible under these circumstances.

NELSON: He also said they weren't prisoners of war but quote-unquote guests of the separatist mayor. And German officials quickly denounced this press conference as repulsive.

INSKEEP: Now, even as all this is happening, President Obama has said today the United States will impose more sanctions on Russia, which is suspected of being behind all of this. What are people saying about that in Ukraine, Soraya?

NELSON: Well, people here don't feel necessarily that these sanctions have any impact. It was interesting that former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was here yesterday holding a town hall, talking to people about their political and economic concerns. And he suggests that it would take three to five years for any real sanctions to have an impact in Russia.

That's not what analysts that we've talked to have said. They said if there were actually some sweeping trade, economic, financial sanctions against Russia, that in fact it could be a matter of months before it would feel the pinch.

INSKEEP: Soraya, thanks very much.

NELSON: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That was NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Donetsk.

News out of another Eastern Ukrainian city this morning: The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, was shot today. We don't know who did it. A spokeswoman says doctors are fighting to save the mayor's life. And we'll bring you more details as we get them.

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