WH threatens more sanctions on Russia

 

Russia will face additional sanctions from the U.S. and Europe if it “does not take immediate steps toward de-escalation” in Ukraine, the White House warned Monday.

The decision to impose additional costs on Moscow came in a phone call between President Obama and French President François Hollande on Monday.

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The leaders agreed that “Russia has a responsibility to cease its destabilizing activities,” including facilitating the travel of weapons and mercenaries across its border with Ukraine and the build-up of Russian troops in the vicinity, the White House said.

The leaders also appeared to endorse the crackdown by the central government in Kiev that has seen pro-Russian separatists retreat from Slovyansk, which served as a strategic stronghold for the rebel forces, and nearby Kramatorsk.

The Ukranian military appeared to be readying an assault on Donetsk, the self-proclaimed capital of the separatist effort, according to multiple media reports. A victory there could prove a decisive blow against the rebels, although it also risks inducing Russia into further involvement.

“In the absence of any meaningful efforts by the separatists to engage in talks or to adhere to the ceasefire, however, the President noted that we respect the Ukrainian government’s responsibility to maintain public order in the country and to protect the population,” the White House said.

The Obama administration has for weeks been readying so-called "scalpel sanctions" that would narrowly target Russia's technology, defense and financial sectors. 

The penalties would likely ban U.S. companies and financial institutions from doing business with major Russian banks, prevent technology transfers to Russia’s natural gas industries and block deals with Russian defense companies.

President Obama is scheduled to discuss the crisis with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen Tuesday at the White House.