US Slaps New Sanctions on Russia over Annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, War in Donbass

A local citizen crosses a street as pro-Russian militants sit on tanks during their rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in downtown Donetsk, Ukraine, 03 May 2017. Photo: Alexander Ermochenko/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • US has introduced additional sanctions against Russia over its encroachments against Ukraine.
  • New sanctions are consistent with the ‘US commitment to seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine and to facilitate Crimea’s return to Ukraine’, Treasury Department has said.
  • New sanctions have designated 38 individuals and entities under Ukraine-related authorities, including two Russian government officials.
  • US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has declared sanctions on Russia would be relieved only when it gives Crimea back to Ukraine, and implements the Minsk agreement.

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has announced further sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and the ongoing pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbass region.

In the winter of 2013-2014, the Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, and promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West, including through EU and NATO membership.

In response, led by President Vladimir Putin, in February-March 2014, Russia occupied and then annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea.

Shortly after Russia’s seizure of Crimea, a pro-Russian insurgency possibly instigated and aided by Moscow began in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine and has been raging ever since.

Since then, war in Ukraine has claimed some 10,000 lives, and has displaced millions of people.

The Ukrainian’s standoff with the forces of the separatist so called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic along a 400 km (250-mile) frontline has thus turned into a “cold’ conflict with “hot” flashpoints.

The US, the EU, and other Western nations have imposed sanctions on Russia over both the annexation of the Crimea and the insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbass which the West deems to be instigated and supported by Moscow.

Top Russian officials recently told the West to “stop obsessing” over the Crimea, and kept denying Moscow’s involvement in the war in Donbass.

Earlier this week the EU extended one of its three sets of sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Another set of EU sanctions against Russia was renewed in March, and a third set is expected to be extended in the upcoming days.

‘US Commitment’ to Ukraine

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced on Tuesday that it had reinforced existing sanctions on Russia by designating or identifying a range of individuals and entities involved in the ongoing conflict under four Executive orders related to Russia and Ukraine.

“Today’s action is designed to counter attempts to circumvent U.S. sanctions and will maintain alignment of US measures with those of our international partners,” the US Treasury Department said.

“These steps are consistent with the US commitment to seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine and to facilitate Crimea’s return to Ukraine,” it stated.

“US sanctions on Russia related to the situation in eastern Ukraine will remain in place until Russia fully honors its obligations under the Minsk Agreements. US sanctions related to Crimea will not be lifted until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula,” the US Treaty Department emphasized.

In February 2015, the leaders of Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine – Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, and Petro Poroshenko – negotiated the so called Minsk II Agreement, under which warring parties are to stick to a full ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons from the frontline to establish a security zone, and release all hostages on the basis of an “all for all” exchange.

The Minsk II ceasefire deal has been broken many times on the 400 km (250-mile) frontline between the Ukrainian troops and the forces of the so called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics established in the rebel-controlled zones.

In recent months, Ukraine has moved to isolate the pro-Russian separatists in Donbass by blocking trade and shutting off supplies of electricity and gas.

Several factions in the Ukrainian Parliament have introduced legislation that would designate those territories outside of Kiev’s control as “occupied.” For the time being, the legislation in question appears to be unlikely to be adopted.

Maintaining Pressure on Russia

“These designations will maintain pressure on Russia to work toward a diplomatic solution,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

“This administration is committed to a diplomatic process that guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty, and there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations under the Minsk agreements,” he added.

With its new action, the US Treasury Department’s OFAC designated 38 individuals and entities under Ukraine-related authorities, including one entity that has engaged in the evasion of existing sanctions, two Russian government officials and two individuals acting for or on behalf of a government official, two entities that are owned or controlled by an individual previously designated, and 11 individuals and entities that operate in the Crimea region of Ukraine.

Officials of the two pro-Russian separatist entities in Ukraine’s Donbass, Donetsk and Luhansk People’s republics, have also been designated.

As a result of the new sanctions, any property or interest in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of US. persons or within the United States must be blocked.

Additionally, transactions by US persons involving these persons are generally prohibited.

OFAC also identified 20 subsidiaries that are owned 50% or more by the previously-designated AK Transneft OAO (Transneft), subject to Directive 2 under E.O. 13662, which prohibits US persons from dealing in new debt of greater than 90 days maturity of the sanctioned entities.

Full list of the newly designated persons and entities is available in the OFAC statement.

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