WH: Further Russia sanctions ‘on the table’

The Obama administration is considering new sanctions against Russia following the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner in a rebel-controlled area of eastern Ukraine.

"Additional sanctions or additional costs remain on the table and will continue to be considered by this administration to focus pressure on the Russians," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday.

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Earnest, though, declined to say exactly what penalties were being considered, although broader sectoral sanctions, penalties specifically targeting the wealth of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and excluding Russia from the G-20 conference in Australia later this year have all been discussed.

The White House spokesman also would not say if the U.S. was prepared to move unilaterally.

"I’m not going to telegraph any specific strategy that we have," Earnest said, noting that sharing details about sanctions could allow individuals and companies to move their money to evade them.

Earnest said the U.S. is working actively to rally support with European allies for penalties, adding that "patience is wearing thin" with Moscow.

"We certainly want to continue to mobilize the international community, as we’ve already done, to put pressure on Russia and on Putin to contribute to a solution in Ukraine," Earnest said. "And those efforts continue.

"The international community’s collective head is snapped to attention in terms of focusing on the situation,” he continued. “We anticipate that the increased pressure will be something that President Putin finds more persuasive.”

U.S. officials say evidence suggests a surface-to-air missile fired from territory in eastern Ukraine under the control of pro-Russian separatists is responsible for bringing the jetliner down, killing nearly 300. Since the crash, local militants have blocked investigators from retrieving victims' bodies and carrying out a probe.

Earlier Monday, President Obama declared "the burden is now on Russia" to provide open access to the crash site. 

"Given its direct influence over the separatists, Russia and President Putin in particular have a direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation," Obama said.

Imploring the Russian leader to "get serious," Obama said, "the world deserves to know exactly what happened." He said separatists had repeatedly prevented international access to the downed flight, moved bodies and tampered with evidence.

Shortly after the president spoke, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the pro-Russian separatists had agreed to allow international investigators access to the site and to turn over the plane's black boxes to Malaysian investigators.