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US, EU target major Russian companies over Ukraine conflict

The United States has blacklisted major Russian financial and energy companies over the conflict in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the European Union has moved to impose similar sanctions by the end of this month.

Washington imposed its toughest sanctions yet against Russia on Wednesday, accusing the Kremlin of failing to rein in armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"Along with our allies, with whom we've been coordinating closely, I've repeatedly made it clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters over the border into Ukraine," US President Barack Obama told a press conference on Wednesday.

"So far Russia has failed to take any of the steps I've mentioned," Obama said. "In fact, Russia's support for the separatists and violations of Ukraine's sovereignty has continued."

The US president went on to say that the new sanctions were "significant but also targeted," seeking to avoid damage to the US and EU economies. The sanctions stop short of cutting off entire Russian economic sectors.

According to the US Treasury Department, the new sanctions will blacklist major economic, financial and defense companies. Some of the targeted entities include the Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs, Gazprombank, the oil company Rosneft, the natural gas company Novatek, and the Joint Stock Company Military-Industrial Corporation.

Speaking to reporters during a trip to Brazil on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the new US sanctions would bring Washington's relationship with Moscow to a "dead end." Putin said that the sanctions would ultimately harm US interests.

"They are undermining the positions of their energy companies," the Russian president said. "They made one mistake, and now they insist on making another one."

EU moves to escalate sanctions

The European Union has also moved to impose tougher sanctions against Russia. Meeting for a summit in Brussels on Wednesday, the bloc's 28 leaders announced plans to blacklist Russian companies that are "materially or financially supporting actions undermining or threatening Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence." A list of targets will be drawn up by the end of July, according to EU leaders.

"The territorial integrity of that country is not being properly respected by Russia, and we need to send a very clear message with clear actions," British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

In addition, EU leaders called for the European Investment Bank (EIB) to suspend its financial investments in Russia. They also recommended that the European Reconstruction and Development Bank (ERBD) consider suspending future projects in Russia.

slk/crh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)