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Report: Putin to Sanction Top U.S. Senators

Russian President is reportedly planning to sanction American lawmakers in retaliation for similar U.S. sanctions on Russians.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/18/2014, 4:14 AM

Obama and Putin (archive)
Obama and Putin (archive)
Reuters

Russia continues to be unfazed by the world’s sanctions against it and, in fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning some sanctions of his own, according to a report Monday in The Daily Beast.

The report said that Putin is set to ban several U.S. senators and officials from visiting Russia.

Putin’s sanctions would be a response to President Barack Obama’s slapping sanctions on two top aides to Putin and nine other people linked to Russia's military incursion into Crimea.

On Monday, Obama announced the new sanctions and made clear the United States was prepared to impose more if Russia formally annexed Crimea in response to a weekend referendum in the region.

"Going forward, we can calibrate our response based on whether Russia chooses to escalate or to de-escalate the situation," Obama said, according to Reuters.

Obama’s announcement came several hours after the European Union imposed sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine linked to the unrest in Ukraine.

According to The Daily Beast, Putin is expected to release his “retaliation sanctions list” as early as Tuesday. The list, still being finalized, will include top Obama administration officials and high profile U.S. senators, in an effort to roughly mirror the U.S. sanctions against Russian officials and lawmakers.

At the top of the list in Congress, diplomatic sources told the site, is Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who recently co-authored a resolution criticizing Russia’s invasion of Crimea.

Durbin’s inclusion on Putin’s list would mirror Obama’s naming of Valentina Matvienko, the head of the upper chamber of the Russian Duma. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are not expected to be on the Russian sanctions list.

Durbin told The Daily Beast in a statement Monday, "My Lithuanian-born mother would be proud her son made Vladimir Putin’s American enemies list."

Sen. John McCain from Arizona, who traveled to Kiev last weekend to meet with Ukrainian leaders, told The Daily Beast that he expects to be on the list and is happy about it.

“You think I’m not going to be on it?” McCain said. “I would be honored to be on that list.”

McCain said he would not be impacted financially by being subject to a visa ban and asset freeze in the Russian Federation.

“I guess I’m going to have to try to withdraw my money from my secret account in St. Petersburg,” he joked.

Putin has repeatedly ignored Obama’s calls on him to end his incursion into Ukraine. On Monday, Putin released an official statement recognizing Crimea as a "sovereign and independent state", after a controversial referendum vote in the peninsula showed overwhelming support for Moscow over Ukraine.  

On Sunday night, hours after the referendum, Obama phoned Putin and warned him that the results of the referendum in Crimea would never be recognized by the United States or its allies.

Republicans have criticized Obama for his handling of the Ukraine crisis, saying that his “feckless” policy encouraged Putin to invade Ukraine.