The United States and its G-7 partners are calling for broader international sanctions on Russia which could be imposed as early as Monday in response to Moscow’s support of pro-Russian armed separatists that have seized control of government buildings across eastern Ukraine while Russia has simultaneously massed 40,000 troops on the Russian-Ukraine border, aggravating tensions between Kiev’s pro-Western government and Moscow.
On Saturday morning G-7 leaders issued a statement on Ukraine, calling for the need to impose additional sanctions on Russia after Moscow has shown no willingness to honor its commitments of the Geneva Accord signed on April 17 before leaders from Ukraine, Russia, the European Union, and the United States.
“It has not publicly supported the accord, nor condemned the acts of pro-separatists seeking to destabilize Ukraine, nor called on armed militants to leave peacefully the government buildings they’ve occupied and put down their arms. Instead, it has continued to escalate tensions by increasingly concerning rhetoric and ongoing threatening military maneuvers on Ukraine’s border” the G-7 statement states.
“Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine’s presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia’s actions” G-7 statement further states.
Tony Blinken, Assistant to the President of the United States and Deputy National Security Adviser for President Barack Obama, spoke on CBS’s Face The Nation aired on Sunday and was asked how U.S. sanctions will be targeted against Russian President Putin and the Kremlin.
“We will be looking to designate people who are in his inner circle, who have a significant impact on the Russian economy. We’ll be looking to designate companies that they and other inner circle people control. We’ll be looking at taking steps as well with regard to high technology exports to their defense industry” Blinken said.
Moscow continues to insist that they are not supporting the pro-Russian separatists operating in eastern Ukraine while downplaying the significance of their troops along the border.
Last week Ukrainian government officials in Kiev exercised restraint after Russian planes were seen crossing into Ukraine’s airspace, a military maneuver that was widely viewed as provocative.
On Friday Pro-Russian separatists took the crisis in eastern Ukraine to the another level and added a new layer of thuggish behavior after they detained eight members of the peaceful Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.) just outside the separatist-controlled city of Slovyansk.
The OSCE observers from Europe were traveling by bus from Kramatorsk to Slovyansk when they were detained by armed pro-Russian separatists.
The separatists later called the European OSCE observers “spies” of NATO, paraded them around, and conducted a news conference on Sunday with an armed gunman behind their table.
One Swedish observer was released by separatists on Sunday due to a medical condition.
During the news conference, the self-proclaimed “people’s mayor of Slovyansk” Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, a pro-Russian separatist, confirmed that he would be willing to consider a prisoner exchange of the remaining international observers for pro-Russian activists who were previously arrested in Kiev.
Later today EU foreign ministers will convene and seek out ways to expand their sanction list of Russian individuals who are tied to President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.