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US to ratchet up sanctions on Russia

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US President Barack Obama has announced plans to ratchet up sanctions on Russia over Moscow’s “illegal actions in Ukraine”.

Obama said in a statement on Thursday the United States and the European Union will slap tougher sanctions on “Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors”.

He said the new sanctions are meant to further isolate the Kremlin. “These measures will increase Russia’s political isolation as well as the economic costs to Russia, especially in areas of importance to President (Vladimir) Putin and those close to him.”

Obama, however, offered Moscow a choice to either get a sanctions relief by stepping back in Ukraine, or intensify the confrontation with the West.

“If Russia fully implements its commitments, these sanctions can be rolled back,” he said. “If, instead, Russia continues its aggressive actions and violations of international law, the costs will continue to rise.”

The details of the new sanctions are to be laid out by the Obama administration on Friday.

The United States and Russia have been at loggerheads over the political situation in Ukraine after pro-Western forces ousted the country’s president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

Washington also accuses Moscow of orchestrating an “illegitimate referendum to annex Crimea” and fuelling unrest in eastern Ukraine.

But Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations and criticized the government in Kiev for the crackdown on the pro-Russia protesters in eastern Ukraine.

Washington has imposed harsh sanctions on Moscow over its alleged involvement in the crisis in Ukraine, targeting economic sectors and senior Russian government officials. The European Union, which has close trade ties with Russia, has been under pressure from the US to follow the suit.

At a summit at the end of August, the EU grudgingly agreed to impose more sanctions on Russia, but delayed their implementation.

In August, Russia introduced a year-long ban on certain food imports from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia and Norway.

On September 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the countries that have imposed sanctions against Moscow will be affected the most by the consequences of the bans.

“Concerning limitations in trade and economic activity, at the end, those who are implementing this policy will suffer most of the harm,” Putin said.

“I hope that common sense prevails and we will work in a normal, modern way,” he added. “And that neither we nor our partners suffer losses from these mutual pinpricks.”


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