EU, US ban on officials of Russia, Ukraine

Crimea declares independence after holding referendum

18 March 2014 BBC Online

The EU and US have announced travel bans and asset freezes against a number of officials from Russia and Ukraine.The moves follow Sunday's referendum in Crimea, in which officials say 97% of voters backed breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia.The individuals targeted by the sanctions are seen as having played a key role in the referendum, which Kiev, the US and EU deem illegal.Pro-Russian forces have been in control of Crimea since late February.Moscow says the troops are pro-Russian self-defence forces and not under its direct control.The crisis follows the ousting on 22 February of Ukraine's pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych, who had sparked months of street protests by rejecting a planned EU trade deal in favour of closer ties with Moscow.US President Barack Obama said in a press conference that Washington stood "ready to impose further sanctions" depending on whether Russia escalated or de-escalated the situation in Ukraine.If Moscow continued to intervene in Ukraine, he warned, it would "achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world".The EU announced sanctions against 21 officials after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels.Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius tweeted that further measures were expected to be taken in the next few days.The US said it had targeted seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers and four Crimea-based separatist leaders with financial sanctions for undermining "democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine".The officials include Sergei Aksyonov, the acting leader of Crimea; Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian deputy prime minister; and Valentina Matviyenko, head of the upper house of the Russian parliament."Today's actions send a strong message to the Russian government that there are consequences for their actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including their actions supporting the illegal referendum for Crimean separation," the White House said in a statement.The list of names targeted by EU sanctions will not be made public until the measures go into effect, which is expected to be at the latest on Tuesday morning, says the BBC's Europe correspondent Matthew Price.A source said it was hoped the measures would encourage Russia to think about the consequences of its actions, he adds.The EU has also shown its support for Ukraine by announcing it will temporarily remove customs duties on Ukrainian exports to the EU.Separately, the authorities in Kiev say they have recalled their ambassador to Moscow for consultation, over the situation in Crimea.Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya has welcomed the EU's decision to impose sanctions on 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials.He told the BBC: "I think it's a step forward in mobilising the international community and confronting the Russian decision to violate international order and international laws. Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine."Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is on the US sanctions list, says the measures will not affect those who do not have assets abroad, Reuters reports"Comrade Obama, and what will you do with those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or didn't you think of that?" Rogozin wrote on Twitter.Monday's sanctions came hours after Crimea's parliament declared the region an independent state, following Sunday's referendum.The government in Kiev has said it will not recognise the results.Russia earlier proposed the formation of an international "contact group" to mediate the crisis and seek changes in the constitution that would require Ukraine to uphold military and political neutrality.But the authorities in Kiev have dismissed the proposal as "absolutely unacceptable", Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebynis told Interfax Ukraine news agency.Meanwhile, the parliament in Kiev has formally approved the partial mobilisation of 40,000 reservists and says it is monitoring the situation along the eastern border with Russia.

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