WASHINGTON — The White House announced a set of sanctions against Russia on Thursday, including visa bans for Russian officials as well as an executive order further sanctioning "those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine." The people sanctioned are not named.
The State Department's visa bans reflect "a policy decision to deny visas to those responsible for or complicit in threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," White House press secretary Jay Carney wrote in a statement. "This new step stands in addition to the policy already implemented to deny visas to those involved in human rights abuses related to political oppression in Ukraine."
"In addition, the President has signed an Executive Order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine; threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; contributing to the misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine; or purporting to assert governmental authority over any part of Ukraine without authorization from the Ukrainian government in Kyiv," the statement reads. It also threatens "further steps" if the situation in Crimea gets worse: "This E.O. is a flexible tool that will allow us to sanction those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea, and does not preclude further steps should the situation deteriorate."
In a message to Congress from the president, President Obama declared that the Russian invasion of Crimea poses a national security threat to the United States: "I hereby report that I have issued an Executive Order (the 'order') declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Ukraine."
The administration has openly been threatening to sanction Russia since the beginning of its military aggression in Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry has threatened asset freezes, visa bans, and trade isolation; a senior administration official indicated on a call with reporters earlier this week that tough banking sanctions similar to those imposed on Iran could be possible.
Last month, the State Department issued a visa ban on 20 top Ukrainian officials after dozens of people were killed in a government crackdown on months-long protests. The government of Viktor Yanukovych has since been ousted.