Obama sets new sanctions on Russia

Updated: 2014-04-29 08:59

By Agencies in Sloviansk and Kostyantynivka, Ukraine, and Manila (China Daily)

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Pro-Moscow rebel forces take control of another eastern Ukrainian town

US President Barack Obama announced new sanctions against some Russians on Monday in response to what the US sees as Russian involvement in the turmoil in eastern Ukraine, but he said he was holding broader measures against Russia's economy "in reserve".

On the ground, pro-Moscow rebels showed no sign of curbing their uprising, seizing public buildings in another town in the east. Interfax news agency reported that the mayor of a further major eastern city, Kharkiv, had been shot and was undergoing surgery. It gave no details of the shooting.

Meanwhile, Germany demanded that Russia act to help secure the release of seven unarmed European military monitors, including four Germans, who have been held by the rebels since Friday.

The new US sanctions will add more people and firms to a list announced last month of figures whose assets are frozen and who are denied visas to travel to the United States.

The European Union was also expected to add targets to its Russia sanctions list on Monday. Ambassadors from the 28 EU states met in Brussels, and an EU diplomat said they were expected to add around 15 new names.

Washington will also target some high-tech exports, Obama said. But the measures do not yet include the wider sanctions, such as curbs on the Russian financial and energy sectors, that would do the most serious damage to Russia's economy.

"We are keeping in reserve additional steps that we could take should the situation escalate further," Obama said, acknowledging that he did not know if the measures he has ordered so far will work.

Moscow has in the past shrugged off targeted sanctions like those Obama announced on Monday.

Washington says armed rebels, who have captured towns and government buildings across eastern Ukraine, are operating under the direction of Kremlin agents.

Russia denies it is involved and says the uprising is a spontaneous response to oppression of Russian speakers by Kiev.

Rebels take town

The rebels took another town on Monday morning, seizing the police headquarters and municipal administration building in Kostyantynivka, an industrial city in the eastern Donetsk region. Separatists in the province have proclaimed an independent "People's Republic of Donetsk".

A Reuters photographer at the scene saw about 20 gunmen controlling the administration building.

An Agence France-Presse reporter on the scene said that a woman on a loudspeaker was encouraging people to sign up for a May 11 referendum the pro-Russian militants want to hold on independence.

Kostyantynivka has 80,000 inhabitants and is located midway between the flashpoint town of Sloviansk and the regional hub city of Donetsk, both of which are also under the control of insurgents.

The Interfax news agency quoted a spokeswoman for the mayor of Kharkiv, another large city in the east, as saying he was undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound in the back. It said no further details of the incident were available.

On Sunday the separatists paraded eight unarmed European military monitors before journalists. One, a Swede who is diabetic, was freed for medical reasons but four Germans, a Czech, a Dane and a Pole are still being held, described by the rebel leader as "prisoners of war" and NATO spies.

Armed rebels also occupied Donetsk television on Sunday and ordered it to start broadcasting Russian state TV.


(China Daily 04/29/2014 page12)