Obama Jumpstarts International Sanctions on Russia For Crimea Seizure

| by Allison Geller

President Barack Obama ordered the first Western sanctions of Russia in response to the country’s military takeover of Crimea. European leaders are now deciding how far to take their own sanctions.

The Associated Press reports that Obama announced the sanction midday Thursday and then spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone for an hour. In speaking to the White House and Putin, Obama emphasized that the United States could not condone Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

"Today the world can see that the United States is united with our allies and partners in upholding international law and pursuing a just outcome that advances global security and the future that the Ukrainian people deserve," Obama said at the White House. "That's what we're going to continue to do in the days to come until we have seen a resolution to this crisis."

Obama told Putin that diplomacy was still an option if Russia retreated to its base in Crimea and Ukraine and Russia held direct talks.

The European Union imposed sanctions Thursday as well, suspending talks with Putin about an economic agreement that would allow Russian citizens to travel to EU countries without a visa. European leaders balked, however, when it came to harsher sanctions like freezing assets or issuing travel bans to officials. Many European countries depend on Russian oil and gas, and Russian investors hold a significant stake in the banks of certain countries, such as Britain and Cyprus.

"The solution to the crisis in Ukraine must be based on the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine," read the EU summit statement. "It would be a matter of great regret if Russia continued to refuse to participate in a productive dialogue with the government of Ukraine."

France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said a second round of sanctions could follow if the first ones fail, according to the Guardian.

The Crimean government just decided to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia. It has said it will hold a referendum in 10 days, a move condemned by the Ukrainian government and international leaders.

Sources: Associated Press, Guardian, Russia Today