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EU Sanctions Target 21 Ukrainian, Russian Officials

Travel bans, asset freezes imposed after Crimean referendum endorsed joining the Russian Federation.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 3/17/2014, 3:28 PM

Armed men believed to be Russians, in Crimea
Armed men believed to be Russians, in Crimea
Reuters

"European Union foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions including travel bans and asset freezes on 21 offiicals from Russia and Ukraine linked to the unrest in Ukraine, Lithuania's foreign minister said on Monday. He added that more measures would follow in a few days, when EU leaders meet for a summit in Brussels.

Sunday's referendum in Crimea, which called for joining the Russian Federation, has been followed by steps within Crimea to split from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The U.S. and its European allies made countermoves, toward imposition of economic and other sanctions on Russia and those Crimeans who have spearheaded the region's breakaway attempt.

Crimean officials say more than 95 percent of those who voted in Sunday's referendum endorsed the idea of joining the Russian Federation. However, NPR reported that "many pro-Ukranian Crimeans boycotted the referendum, saying the ballot gave them no option to vote to maintain the status quo of Crimea as part of Ukraine."

He also reports that "activists complained of irregularities — including voting by children and some people voting multiple times. Also, Russian biker gangs and armed self-defense units patrolled polling stations."

NPR also reported that the interim government in Kiev there has rejected the vote, saying it is illegal under their nation's constitution.

President Obama and many Western leaders say Russia has illegally interfered in Ukraine by sending troops into the Crimean region following last month's ouster of Ukraine's pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Obama reportedly told Russian President Vladimir Putin again on Sunday that the U.S. will never recognize Sunday's vote.

For his part, Putin says he is moving to protect the ethnic Russians in Crimea, which is semi-autonomous, from reprisals by Ukrainian nationalists. However, there has been little, if any, evidence of any such moves by Ukrainians.

Meanwhile, steps toward Crimea's split from Ukraine continue. Monday, the BBC reports, Crimea's parliament "formally declared independence from Ukraine and asked to join the Russian Federation."

And from Moscow, Russia's Interfax news agency reports that "the independence of Crimea will be recognized by Russia in an inter-state agreement, State Duma Chairman Sergei Naryshkin said." The parliament leader added that Russia will act "swiftly and responsibly" and that he sees no problem with the Crimean officials' request to become part of the federation.