White House won't rule out Putin sanctions

The White House on Monday said officials would not rule out direct economic sanctions against Vladimir Putin over the Russian president’s role in ordering a military incursion into Crimea.

“We're not going to rule out individuals or rule out actions, except to say that there will be additional costs imposed on Russia, if Russia does not change direction here when it comes to how it's handling the situation in Ukraine,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

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Pressed repeatedly on why Putin was not among the individuals identified by the administration on Monday, Carney said the U.S. would “evaluate what the right step is as the situation evolved.”

“I’m not going to get into a game of hinting or indicating who might be next,” Carney said.

But the White House spokesman still appeared to indicate that Putin was eligible for sanctions under the executive order signed by President Obama over the weekend, which allows the administration to impose penalties against any official within the Russian Federation government.

Earlier Monday, a senior administration official said that the U.S. did not begin sanctions efforts with another head of state because it is “highly unusual and rather extraordinary” to penalize foreign leaders.

“However, if you look at the list of the seven government officials, these are clearly people who are very close to President Putin, who provide him, as my State [Department] colleague ran through, with a lot of the advice, support and implementation of the policies that we've seen in Crimea,” the official said. “So there's no question that this hits close to home in that regard.”

The official added that the individuals named were “cronies who provide support to the Russian government, really gets at individuals who have dedicated significant resources to supporting President Putin and the policies of the Russian government in the past.”

In remarks earlier Monday, President Obama warned the Kremlin the United States stood ready to steepen costs if Russia did not attempt to de-escalate the crisis.

“As an initial step, I'm authorizing sanctions on Russian officials, entities operating in the arms sector in Russia and individuals who provide material support to senior officials of the Russian government,” Obama said. “And if Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions.”