The Obama administration delivered more sanctions if the violence did not stop in east Ukraine, but did not touch Russian President Vladimir Putin or any of his cronies. Instead, the leaders of the pro-Russian forces, who have no real assets or connections to the West, took the hit.
The penalties on seven separatists were intended as a signal that the U.S. will continue to punish those it holds responsible for instability in Ukraine and that the West was still prepared to slap tougher sanctions on Russia’s economic sectors to punish it for stoking unrest in Ukraine should Moscow not take steps to de-escalate the crisis, the officials said.
Obama decided to target these people, which includes Denis Pushilin, self-proclaimed leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Sergei Menyailo, acting mayor of Sevastopol, Crimea. The list of seven people also includes the mayors of the rebel regions.
As the West “promises” harsher sanctions against Russia, Moscow continues to antagonize Ukraine. NATO said Russia added thousands more troops at Ukraine’s border despite promising at least three times to remove them. The U.S. knows Russia added more troops, but took this step nonetheless.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest called reports of a new Russian military buildup near the Ukraine border “troubling” and dismissed explanations from the Kremlin that the movement of security forces is related to border security.
“We will not accept any use of Russian military forces, under any pretext, in eastern Ukraine,” Earnest said. He also slammed Russian officials for making what he said were false claims about the Ukrainian government being responsible for poor human rights conditions in eastern Ukraine.
On June 12, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov admitted Russia sends “humanitarian aid” to the pro-Russians. He did not specify the aid, but Donbas Militia leader Igor Gorkin, one of the seven on this list, said it included military equipment. On the same day, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said three Russian troops entered Ukraine, and a week later, NATO released satellite images that supported his claim.
The only person of real significance on the sanctions list is Rosneft CEO and President Igor Sechin. Rosneft is Russia’s largest petroleum company with heavy contracts with ExxonMobil and British Petroleum. Sechin is considered Putin’s lieutenant.