The United States moved Monday to put the economic squeeze on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine with President Barack Obama announcing sanctions against officials with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Further provocations will achieve nothing, except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world," Obama said, announcing his latest efforts to persuade a so-far unmoved Putin to leave Ukraine. "Continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia's diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy."
His remarks came moments after the White House announced that it had expanded sanctions against Russia, looking to further isolate the country for intervening in Ukraine. The move freezes the assets of 7 Russians with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as four Ukrainians active in Crimea.
The new executive order expands one that Obama signed less than two weeks ago by authorizing Treasury -- in consultation with the Secretary of State -- to impose sanctions on named officials of the Russian government, "any individual or entity that operates in the Russian arms industry, and any designated individual or entity that acts on behalf of, or that provides material or other support to, any senior Russian government official."
The White House said it fashioned the new sanctions to impose costs on individuals who "wield influence in the Russian government and those responsible for the situation in Ukraine."
Russian President Vladimir Putin wasn't named -- a move the White House said would be "highly unusual and rather extraordinary" -- but those close to him are.
"It hits close to home," a senior administration official said. And the White House says the sanctions can be broadened to reach more officials.
The administration says the sanctions are "by far" the most sweeping sanctions that have been applied to Russia since the end of the Cold War.
Those singled out include seven Russian government officials: Vladislav Surkov, Sergey Glazyev, Leonid Slutsky, Andrei Klishas, Valentina Matviyenko, Dmitry Rogozin, and Yelena Mizulina.
The White House says the United States "also will seek to hold accountable individuals who use their resources or influence to support or act on behalf of senior Russian government officials.
"We recognize that the Russian leadership derives significant support from, and takes action through, individuals who do not themselves serve in any official capacity," it said.
It said the focus is to identify these individuals and target their personal assets, but not companies that they may manage on behalf of the Russian state.
The move freezes the named invidual's assets and requires that no one in the U.S. can do business with them -- and that they can't do business with U.S. dollars.
Senior administration officials said people in similar circumstances have found "great difficulty" in using financial services in Europe and the Gulf. And they said isolation of Russia has already caused the Russian stock market to drop 14.7 percent and the ruble has depreciated nearly 3 percent.
In addition to the executive order, the White House says the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on four other individuals under the March 6 executive order, "for their actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine and in undermining the Government of Ukraine."
They include Crimea-based separatist leaders Sergey Aksyonov and Vladimir Konstantinov; former Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk; and Ukraine's former president, Viktor Yanukovych.
"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, adding that the U.S. "together with international partners, will continue to stand by the Ukrainian government to ensure that costs are imposed on Crimean separatists and their Russian backers.
The White House says Vladislav Surkov and Sergey Glazyev are being sanctioned as presidential advisers to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Slutsky is being sanctioned for his status as a State Duma deputy, where he is Chairman of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration, and Relations with Compatriots. Klishas is being sanctioned for his status as a Member of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and as Chairman of the Federation Council Committee of Constitutional Law, Judicial, and Legal Affairs, and the Development of Civil Society. Matviyenko is being sanctioned for her status as Head of the Federation Council.
Rogozin is being sanctioned for his status as the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.
Mizulina is being sanctioned for her status as a State Duma Deputy. Aksyonov is being designated for "threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine’s democratic institutions and processes." The White House says Aksyonov claims to be the Prime Minister of Crimea and has "rejected the authority of the legitimate government in Kyiv."
Konstantinov is being designated for "threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine’s democratic institutions and processes." Konstantinov is the speaker of the Crimean parliament, which on March 11 declared independence from Ukraine.
Medvedchuk, leader of Ukrainian Choice, is being designated for "threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine’s democratic institutions and processes." He's also being designated because he "materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support to Yanukovych and because he is a leader of an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine and actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine."
Former Ukrainian President Yanukovych is also being designated for "threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine’s democratic institutions and processes." The White House says that "after abandoning Kyiv and ultimately fleeing to Russia, Viktor Yanukovych called upon Russian President Vladimir Putin to send Russian troops into Ukraine."