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US, EU impose new sanctions on Russia over Ukraine

European Union flags. (Thijs ter Haar/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States, together with the European Union and Canada, imposed new sanctions on March 15 on more than a dozen Russian officials and businesses in response to the country’s “continued aggression in Ukraine.”

“Today’s action targets individuals and entities playing a role in Russia’s unjustified attacks on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Kerch Strait, the purported annexation of Crimea, and backing of illegitimate separatist government elections in eastern Ukraine,” the U.S. Treasury said in a March 15 statement.

Six officials were targeted, along with six Russian defense companies, and two Russian energy and construction firms operating in Crimea.

The six defense firms operating in Crimea were targeted for misappropriating Ukrainian state assets to provide services to the Russian military during the 2014 annexation, it said.

Four of the six Russian officials targeted by the measure were involved in the attack near the Kerch Strait attack in November off the coast of Crimea, the Treasury said.

Moscow has said the three Ukrainian Navy vessels had illegally entered Russian territorial waters, a claim denied by Kyiv.

“The United States and our transatlantic partners will not allow Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine to go unchecked,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“This joint initiative with our partners in the European Union and Canada reinforces our shared commitment to impose targeted and meaningful sanctions in response to the Kremlin’s attempts to disregard international norms and undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.

Earlier in Brussels, the European Union added eight Russian officials to its sanctions list for their involvement in the November attack.

The EU sanctions, imposed after Russia seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, now includes 170 individuals and 44 entities.

Among the most senior officials added to the EU blacklist on March 15 were Sergei Stankevich, a high-ranking FSB officer in Crimea, his deputy Andrei Shein, as well as Colonel General Aleksandr Dvornikov who is the head of the southern military district of the Russian armed forces.

Three naval commanders and two captains were also sanctioned.

According to several sources who spoke to RFE/RL under condition of anonymity, Admiral Gennady Medvedev, who is the deputy Head of the Border Service of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation – was initially due to be included to the sanctions list with the other eight Russians.

Diplomats said Finland had refused to add him. When approached by RFE/RL, the Finnish permanent representative to the European Union responded: “We cannot comment individual position of any member state, neither our own, so we will not comment.”

Medvedev has reportedly been involved in border cooperation efforts between Russia and Finland. Plus, he took part in a so-called “Arctic forum of coast guards” in Finland last year.

The conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Moscow-backed separatists has left some 13,000 people dead since April 2014.