US announces visa restrictions on Russians

By Lara Jakes

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 6 2014 9:49 a.m. MST

Specifically, the sanctions would target people who undermine Ukraine's democracy and new government; threaten the country's peace, security, stability and sovereignty; are linked to misappropriations of government assets; and try to assert governmental authority over any part of Ukraine without the consent of Kiev. They would also prohibit U.S. persons from doing business with those who have been sanctioned.

American sanctions against heads of state are extremely rare and typically are reserved for situations in which the U.S. is seeking regime change, making Putin unlikely to be a direct target of financial penalties, U.S. officials said.

The European Union has been considering its own sanctions against the pro-Russian movement, and the penalties announced Thursday were planned to coordinate with expected action in Brussels.

Congress has been rushing to impose hard-hitting sanctions on Russia in response to its takeover of Crimea, hoping Europe will follow the lead of the United States in upping the pressure on Putin's government.

The U.S. sanctions push represents a rare case of broad agreement among the Obama administration and Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress. But they all are also united in their concern that American economic penalties will mean little without the participation of European countries with far deeper commercial relations with Russia.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, welcomed the sanctions and said the Ohio Republican is "committed to working with the administration to give President Obama as many tools as needed to put President Putin in check as well as prevent Russia from infringing on the sovereignty of any of its other neighbors."

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, called the new penalties "a positive first step" that needs to be coupled with similar sanctions from Europe to underscore the costs — diplomatic and economic — of rejecting Ukraine's sovereignty.

"I hope that Russia can be dissuaded from further aggression and can be walked back from its perilous course," Schiff said. "But if not, the U.S. and its allies must be prepared to use all of the diplomatic and economic tools at its disposal to deter such reckless conduct."

Jakes reported from Rome. Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report. Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/larajakesAP and https://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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