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US and EU agree to ratchet up economic pressure on Russia over its support for Ukraine rebels

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US and EU agree to ratchet up economic pressure on Russia over its support for Ukraine rebels

The US has expanded sanctions against Russia over its role in Ukraine.
It follows agreement by European leaders to slap on their own new economic restrictions marking a new phase in the West’s confrontation with Moscow.

“We are blocking the exports of specific and technologies to the Russian energy sector, we’re expanding our sanctions to more Russian banks and defence companies and we are formally suspending credit that encourages exports to Russia and financing for economic development projects in Russia. At the same time the European Union is joining us in imposing major sanctions on Russia. (…) It’s not a new cold war, what it is is a very specific issue about Russia’s unwillingness to recognise that Ukraine can chart its own path,” announced President Obama speaking at the White House.

EU leaders with bigger economic interests at stake have hesitated for months to take decisive action but the downing of a civilian flight in an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists has changed all that.

It is unclear how Russian President Vladimir Putin will react but he has already warned the sanctions are likely to hurt Western economies as well as his own.

The EU sanctions will cover the financial sector, energy exploration, technology and arms sales. They will also target for the first time entire sectors rather than individuals or firms .

The sanctions will initially last a year but will be reviewed after three months to determine their impact on Moscow’s behaviour.

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