Obama Expands U.S. Sanctions On Russian Officials, “Cronies”

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President Obama announced Thursday that he is expanding the group of Russians being sanctioned by the U.S. to include more senior government officials, as well as several other individuals and a bank that provides material support to the government that the administration is describing as "cronies."

In addition, the president said in a statement from the South Lawn before departing the White House, he signed an additional executive order in consultation with European allies that will give the U.S. the authority to impose sanctions on key sectors of the Russian economy, nothing that this was not a "preferred outcome" because it could impact the global economy as well as the Russian one.

"The United States today is moving, as we said we would, to impose additional costs on Russia," the president said, noting his actions were a response to the Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine, Russia's move to annex the region and rising tensions in the peninsula in recent days.

"These are all choices that the Russian government has made, choices that have been rejected by the international community," the president said.

He stressed that the U.S. and Russia still have diplomatic relations are urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to take a different path.

"The Russian people need to know and Mr. Putin needs to understand that Ukrainians shouldn't have to choose between the West and Russia. We want the Ukrainian people to chose their own destiny," Mr. Obama said. "That can only happen if Russia also recognizes the rights of the Ukrainian people."

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