To align better with partners, the US has ordered additional sanctions on accused belligerents in Ukraine's civil war. A year after the downing of MH17, Ukraine's foreign minister says he will continue to seek justice.
The US added associates of a billionaire Russian gas trader, Crimean port operators and former Ukrainian officials to its list of those penalized. The fresh US sanctions come after the European Union and Canada recently stepped up pressure on Russia to ensure that the country fully implement peace accords reached in Minsk in February but regularly violated.
"Today's action underscores our resolve to maintain pressure on Russia for violating international law and fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine," John Smith, acting director of the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement released late Thursday.
In all, Treasury announced sanctions on about two dozen individuals and entities, including 13 for supporting the evasion of existing measures, two companies operating in Russia's arms sector and five Crimean port operators. The sanctions also target four former Ukrainian officials, members of the ex-Soviet state's leader Viktor Yanukovych's regime, already on the EU sanctions list: Andriy Petrovych Klyuyev, Sergey Vitalievich Kurchenko, Eduard Anatoliyovych Stavytsky, and Oleksandr Viktorovych Yanukovych. In February 2014, Yanukovych fell after months of popular protests that he had tried in vain to suppress violently and fled to Russia with the help of Kremlin security agents.
Earlier this week, Ukraine's government banned French actor Gerard Depardieu for refusing to recognize the country's independence.
'Not yet reached'
In an interview published Friday, former German NATO Ambassador Martin Erdmann told DPA that he would like to see increased cooperation between Russia and the 28-nation alliance - or, at least, a toning down of the animosity. Erdmann stepped down this week after 15 years to become Germany's envoy to Turkey.
"We have not yet reached the point that we want to reach, namely to re-enter into a dialogue with Russia," Erdmann told the German press agency. "This lack of dialogue with Russia is, by now understood by many, also within NATO, as a burden," he added.
Erdmann's comments come as Germany announced an additional 20 million euros ($22 million) for Bundeswehr training missions to Ukraine.
The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine last summer remains a point of contention. Ukraine's government accuses separatists of downing the jet, perhaps not knowing that it carried 298 civilians flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
At the UN Thursday, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told The Associated Press that Ukraine, Malaysia, Australia, Netherlands and Belgium - the countries investigating MH17's downing - would again seek Security Council approval for an international tribunal to prosecute alleged perpetrators. Russia vetoed a previous effort Wednesday.
Also on Thursday, Russia put a Ukrainian pilot on trial for allegedly killing two journalists.
mkg/jil (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)