US, Europe sanctions target Putin’s inner circle

March 21, 2014 • National News

In this photo taken on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, Russian businessman and billionaire Arkady Rotenberg applauds during a local soccer match in St.Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, March 15, 2013. President Barack Obama on Thursday expanded U.S. economic sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine, targeting President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff and 19 other individuals as well as a Russian bank that provides them support. Those named in the sanctions Thursday include Arkady Rotenberg lifelong Putin friend whose company has amassed billions of dollars in government contracts. (AP Photo/Interpress, Alexander Kulebyakin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Raising the stakes in an East-West showdown over Ukraine, President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered economic sanctions against nearly two dozen members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and a major Russian bank that provides them support. He warned that more sweeping penalties against Russia’s robust energy sector could follow.

Russia retaliated swiftly, imposing entry bans on American lawmakers and senior White House officials, among them Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer and the president’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes.

It’s far more than just a U.S.-Russia dispute. European Union leaders said they, too, were ready to close in on Putin’s associates, announcing sanctions on 12 more people linked to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. That brought the number of people facing EU sanctions to 33.

The Western aim is twofold: to ratchet up the costs for Putin’s annexation of Crimea and to head off any further Russian military inroads into Ukraine.

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