US and EU Slam Russia With New Sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

The US and European Union announced a new wave of sanctions on Russian companies and political leaders Thursday in response to Russia’s continuing assistance to separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian energy firms Novatek and Rosneft, the Russian financial institutions Gazprombank and VEB, and eight Russian arms firms that make tanks, mortar shells and small arms were hit with sanctions.

Four individuals, Putin adviser Igor Shchegolev, Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Neverov, Ukrainian separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai and Sergey Beseda, an official with Russia’s Federal Security Service, the intelligence agency that replaced the KGB after the collapse of the Soviet Union, were also hit with sanctions.

The European Union then urged the European Investment Bank to not sign any new financing agreements with Moscow, and was suspending operations in Russia financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. European nations have much closer energy and other economic ties with Russia and have not imposed as tough sanctions as the United States.

The penalties were announced early Thursday morning, hours before Malaysian passenger jet MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the sanctions were a “dead end” that would backfire on American companies operating in Russia.

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson

“We gave this American company [ExxonMobil] the right to work on the [Russian Arctic] shelf,” Putin said in Brazil, before attending a BRICS meeting. “So, what, the United States does not want it to work there now?”

Earlier this year, both ExxonMobil and British energy company BP said they were still firmly committed to working in Russia, despite straining ties between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.

“There has been no — I mean to this point, the current situation obviously is early days — no impact on any of our plans or activities at this point,” ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson said during a March 5 analyst meeting. “Nor would we expect there to be any, barring governments taking steps that are beyond our control.”

BP, which has a 12-percent stake in the Russian oil firm Rosneft, said last April that “tt is too early to assess the impact [of sanctions].”

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said relations between the two countries were going “back to the 1980s.” Russia’s foreign ministry denounced the sanctions as “bullying” by the United States, and accused the EU of “giving in to the bullying of the U.S. administration.”

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