West imposes fresh sanctions on Russia

Tensions mount as Kharkiv’s pro-Russian mayor in serious condition after shooting

The west has imposed fresh sanctions on Russia as tensions in eastern Ukraine continued to mount and the mayor of Kharkiv was shot and seriously wounded.

The White House yesterday expanded its list of sanctions to seven Russian individuals and 17 companies. The move targets senior officials in the sphere of Russian finance and energy including Igor Sechin, head of oil giant Rosneft and Sergei Chemezov of the high-tech firm Rostec. Both are close to Vladamir Putin.

Meanwhile EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels agreed to add 15 names to the list of 33 individuals already subject to targeted measures, with the list of individuals due to be published today. EU officials will also consider sanctions against more individuals.

Obama warning
Speaking in the Philippines on the last stop of his week-long visit to Asia, US president Barack Obama said the new sanctions represented the next stage in a "calibrated effort to change Russia's behaviour . . . We don't yet know whether it is going to work," he said, hinting at the possibility of further sanctions, such as more broad-based action against the finance and defence industry.


“The goal here is not to go after Mr Putin personally,” he said. “The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he’s engaging in could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul.”

As well as targeting some of Mr Putin's long-standing allies, include Dmitry N Kozak, a deputy prime minister, and Vyacheslav Volodin, a deputy chief of staff to Mr Putin, the US targeted 13 Russian companies. These include several banks and energy company Stroytransgaz. The US also announced plans to oppose export licence applications for high-tech products that could enhance Russia's military capabilities.

The intensification of measures against Russian individuals and companies came as violence continued across eastern Ukraine. Gennady Kernes, the pro-Russian mayor of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine's largest city was struggling for life last night in hospital having been shot in the back by an unidentified gunman. Mr Kernes was accused by Ukraine's pro-western leaders two months ago of promoting separatism by demanding independence when pro-Russian protesters took control of administrative buildings.

Elsewhere Germany demanded Russia act to help secure the release of seven unarmed European military monitors, including four Germans, who have been held by the rebels since Friday. But Moscow's ambassador to the OSCE security body – for whom the men are working – condemned the organisation, of which Russia is a member, as being "extremely irresponsible" for sending them in to eastern Ukraine. Nonetheless, he said, they should be freed.

The seven unarmed monitors includes four German citizens, a Polish, Danish and Czech citizen. They were seized on Friday, with one Swedish individual released on Sunday on medical grounds.

British foreign secretary William Hague said there would be no "red line" that would trigger further, so-called "phase three" sanctions as it might encourage Russia to engage in behaviour in the knowledge that further sanctions would not be imposed.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent