US Imposes Targeted Sanctions, Rejects Crimean Vote to Join Russia

President Obama tells Vladimir Putin that the vote for Crimea to secede from Ukraine and join Russia “would never be recognized.”

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Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama

PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday against making further military advances toward Ukraine, the Associated Press reports. Obama also told Putin that the referendum for Crimea to secede from Ukraine to join Russia "would never be recognized" by the United States.

Swift sanctions were expected from the U.S. and the European Union, and on Monday morning, Obama announced sanctions targeting several Russian figures whom the White House believes contributed to the crisis in Ukraine. 

"We are imposing sanctions on specific individuals for undermining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and government of Ukraine," Obama said. "We are making it clear that there are consequences for their actions."

According to USA Today, the high-level individuals named by the White House are Vladislav Surkov, a businessman and government adviser; Sergey Glazyev, a politician; Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of the Russian parliament; Andrei Klishas, a businessman and academic; Valentina Matviyenko, the chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation; Dmitry Rogozin, an ambassador-at-large and deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry; and Yelena Mizulina, a member of parliament.

On Sunday, residents in Crimea, where the population is mostly ethnic Russians, voted overwhelmingly to split from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The United States, the European Union and others say the vote violated Ukraine's constitution and international law.

Putin insisted that the vote was legal, the Kremlin said. Obama stressed to the Russian leader in their conversation Sunday that if Russia annexed Crimea, the U.S. and its allies would impose sanctions against Moscow, AP reports.  

In a statement issued by the White House, AP reports, Obama told Putin that "a diplomatic resolution cannot be achieved while Russian military forces continue their incursions into Ukrainian territory and that the large-scale Russian military exercises on Ukraine's borders only exacerbate the tension."

U.S. officials warned that any Russian moves into the eastern and southern portions of Ukraine would be a grave escalation requiring additional responses.

Obama is not the only official to speak to Russian counterparts in an attempt to resolve the issue. Secretary of State John Kerry was in touch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and "made clear that this crisis can only be resolved politically and that as Ukrainians take the necessary political measures going forward, Russia must reciprocate by pulling forces back to base and addressing the tensions and concerns about military engagement," AP reports.   

This conversation was the second between Kerry and Lavrov since they had six hours of unsuccessful face-to-face talks in London on Friday, AP reports.

On Sunday, members of Congress made clear that they are ready to enact tough sanctions against Russia. Congress is on a break, with the result that loan guarantees of $1 billion to help the Ukrainian economy are on hold, AP reports.

Read more at the Associated Press and USA Today.

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