Obama says Russian actions ‘have consequences,’ escalates sanctions

BY Julie Pace and Matthew Lee, Associated Press  July 16, 2014 at 4:54 PM EST
Ukrainian troops stand guard at the headquarters of the Ukrainian army's Anti-Terrorist Operation, ATO, near the eastern Ukrainian city of Izyum, near Donetsk, on June 20, 2014. Photo by Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

File photo of Ukrainian troops the eastern city of Izyum, near Donetsk. Photo by Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

Struggling to defuse the persistent crisis in Ukraine, both the U.S. and European Union imposed new economic sanctions on Russia Wednesday, President Barack Obama declaring that Russian leaders must see that their actions supporting Ukrainian rebels “have consequences.”

Though the American and European sanctions were coordinated, they nonetheless exposed fissures in what the West has tried to project as a united front in its months-long effort to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The penalties announced by the White House were broad in scope, targeting two major Russian energy firms, a pair of powerful financial institutions, eight arms firms and four individuals. Leaders in Europe, which has a far deeper economic relationship with Russia than the U.S., were more restrained, ordering investment and development banks on the continent to suspend financing agreements with Moscow.

Even the U.S. penalties stopped short of the most stringent actions the West has threatened, which would entail fully cutting off key sectors of Russia’s economy. But officials said those steps were still on the table if Russia fails to abide by the West’s demands to stop support for pro-Russian insurgents who have destabilized swaths of eastern Ukraine.

“What we are expecting is that the Russian leadership will see once again that its actions in Ukraine have consequences, including a weakening Russian economy and increasing diplomatic isolation,” Obama said as he announced the U.S. penalties from the White House.