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File photo of U.S. Treasury Department by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. hits Ukraine separatists, Russia officials with sanctions

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Friday it will punish 21 people and nine companies with sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

Eleven of the individuals are Ukrainian pro-Russian separatists, the Treasury Department said. They hold titles such as minister of finance, trade, justice and security in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine.

The United States is also targeting several Russian officials, including Andrey Cherezov, a deputy energy minister in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government. Cherezov is already under EU sanctions for his role in transferring turbines to Crimea. The turbines were sold to Russia by German electricity giant Siemens for use on Russian territory. Several companies involved in building infrastructure in Crimea are also being targeted by the latest sanctions.

Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 is not recognized by the United States. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has insisted that U.S. sanctions on Russia related to Crimea will remain in place indefinitely as long as Moscow refuses to withdraw from the territory.

“The U.S. government is committed to maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to targeting those who attempt to undermine the Minsk agreements,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, referring to a 2015 peace agreement reached in Minsk, Belarus, that has never been fully implemented.

Russia’s government reacted to the sanctions by calling them “senseless” and arguing that previous sanctions have failed to produce results for Washington. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the U.S. actions would lead to financial losses for American businesses and that the United States was demonstrating “to the whole world their own helplessness.”

“If U.S. authorities prefer to break economic and other ties with Russia, it is their right — just as we reserve the right to respond,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The new U.S. sanctions came as Tillerson met Friday with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko in Davos, Switzerland.


Associated Press writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

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