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US and EU step up Russia sanctions

The US and the European Union have again stepped up sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

President Barack Obama announced new restrictions on a handful of companies including Rosneft - 20% owned by oil giant BP - accessing American capital markets. Steps are also being taken to prevent senior officials and rebel groups in eastern Ukraine getting hold of funds.

Meanwhile, EU leaders meeting in Brussels agreed a more limited package, imposing asset freezes against around 11 more individuals. But they signalled that measures will be expanded significantly at the end of July to cover "entities and persons" helping to undermine Ukraine's "sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence".

The European Commission will also "reassess and potentially suspend" co-operation programmes with Russia. The move came after David Cameron insisted the summit should set out "clear actions" to show Vladimir Putin the situation will not be tolerated.

The EU previously introduced travel bans and asset freezes targeted at individual members of the Russian president's inner circle after the Ukrainian region of Crimea was annexed. The union is preparing wider sectoral sanctions to be implemented if Moscow fails to ratchet down the stand-off with its neighbour.

Mr Obama said the US measures were "significant but targeted". The White House has indicated that it is holding back the option of fully cutting off key Russian economic sectors for if the crisis escalates further.

The president said: "I've repeatedly made it clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine. So far, Russia has failed to take any of the steps that I mentioned."


From Belfast Telegraph