President Obama issues sanctions and visa restrictions against Russians. The President authorized the U.S. Treasury Department to impose sanctions on “individuals and entities” responsible stealing assets from the Ukrainian People. The executive orders to freeze assets and block visas for people the President determines behind the Russian intervention in Crimea gave him a response for the Russian takeover of the area.
Obama dismissed a Russian backed referendum in Crimea as unconstitutional. The plan would decide if people in Crimea wanted to remain park of Ukraine or sought independence. President Obama contended that any referendum in the area must involve the current Ukraine government. Boarders cannot be redrawn without all parties playing a role in the process.
After announcing his sanctions and condemning Russian actions, President Obama spoke to President Putin on the phone for over an hour and outlined the sanction and visa restrictions issued against the Russians. He reminded the President Putin of the Russian violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and outlined ways for Russia to back down. These steps included direct talks with Ukraine’s government, the pullback Russian forces, and international monitors to ensure the rights of all Ukrainians and Russians are being protected.
President Putin said he and Obama still remain divided the Ukraine situation. He denounced the new anti-Russian government in Kiev as illegitimate and informed the American president that Russia cannot ignore calls for help from ethnic Russians in the region. He called Ukraine holding the Crimea a pre-Western power grab.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reacted angrily to the American decision to freeze Russian assets and block visa permits. Lavrov called the move nonconstructive and insisted Russia would not accept the sanctions being imposed. He is expected to enact similar visa and travel restrictions against Americans in Russia.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry met for the second time Foreign Minister Lavrov in Rome to reiterate the American position and find ways for the standoff to end on a negotiated basis concerning President Obama’s issued sanctions and visa restrictions against Russians. Leaving without a resolution, they agreed to continue their direct communications.
Senior administration officials have yet to determine who would be subject to their assets being frozen and the visas restrictions outlined in the President’s executive order. Instead, the prospect of sanctions should be leading Russians to wonder if their names be listed. The goal is pressure the Russians into entering talks directly with the Ukraine government, something President Putin refuses to do. The sanctions would not apply to the Russian President and members of his cabinet.
After a meeting in Brussels with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told reporters that it was up to the Russian government to make the first step in deescalating the issue of the Russian occupation of Crimea. He suggested that the Russians pull back their forces and return to barracks. The Russians were the ones who started the crisis, they are the ones who need to end it. Until there is a meaningful resolution, President Obama and the issued sanctions and visa restrictions against Russians will stand.
By Brian T. Yates