U.S. President Barack Obama has announced new economic sanctions on Russian banks and energy companies for Moscow's support of the pro-Russian separatist rebellion in Ukraine.
Obama, speaking at the White House Wednesday, said he has repeatedly urged Moscow to take key steps to ease the crisis, and that Russia so far has failed to meet any of the U.S. recommendations.
"We have emphasized our preference to resolve this issue diplomatically,'' Obama said. "We have to see concrete actions, not just words, that Russia in fact is committed to trying to end this conflict.''
He said Russia had continued to support separatists in eastern Ukraine, sending fighters and supplying weapons across the border.
He also said the U.S. continues to stand with the Ukrainian people who, as he noted, have made remarkable progress despite facing enormous challenges. He singled out the recent democratic election of a new president and the signing of an association agreement with the European Union.
A U.S. Treasury Department statement said the latest penalties prohibit new U.S. financing for two major Russian state-owned institutions -- natural gas producer Novatek and the oil company Rosneft. The measures also limit their access to capital markets.
Four senior Russian officials, including the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament, were also targeted, according to a list on the U.S. Treasury Department's website.
The measures also hit eight Russian arms firms producing a range of weaponry, including small arms, mortar shells and tanks, and targets a key shipping facility in the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in March following a controversial referendum. Both Kyiv and the West have condemned Moscow’s absorption of Ukraine’s peninsula as illegal and in violation of international law.
In Brussels Wednesday, the European Union also sought new penalties against Moscow, including a ban on new lending by the European Investment bank, which finances Russian public sector projects.
Additionally, EU leaders agreed to ask the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to suspend new loans to Russia.
Tensions between Moscow and Kyiv escalated Tuesday after a top Ukrainian defense official warned the country faced an imminent Russian military attack and Ukraine's security chief said he had "absolute proof" Russia was involved in downing a Ukrainian military transport plane a day earlier.
Later Tuesday, 11 people were killed in an airstrike that destroyed an apartment building in the eastern Ukrainian town of Sniznhe. Pro-Russian separatists blamed Ukraine's air force for the attack, while a Ukrainian military spokesman, in a thinly veiled accusation against Russia, called the airstrike a "cynical provocation."
Some informations for this report provided by Reuters, AP.