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Obama to Russia: More Sanctions Ready  04/24 06:47

   Accusing Russia of failing to live up to its commitments, President Barack 
Obama warned Moscow on Thursday that the United States has another round of 
economic sanctions "teed up" -- even as he acknowledged those penalties may do 
little to influence Vladimir Putin's handling of the crisis in Ukraine.

   TOKYO (AP) -- Accusing Russia of failing to live up to its commitments, 
President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Thursday that the United States has 
another round of economic sanctions "teed up" --- even as he acknowledged those 
penalties may do little to influence Vladimir Putin's handling of the crisis in 
Ukraine.

   Obama's frank pessimism underscored the limits of Washington's ability to 
prevent Russia from stirring up instability in Ukraine's east and exerting 
influence over elections scheduled for next month in the former Soviet 
republic. A diplomatic accord that offered a glimmer of hope for a resolution 
to the tense dispute is crumbling, and Russia has warned of a firm response if 
the country's citizens or interests in Ukraine are attacked.

   With no appetite in the U.S. for a military response, Obama is largely 
banking on Putin, the Russian president, caving under a cascade of economic 
sanctions targeting his closest associates. But the success of that strategy 
also depends on European nations with closer financial ties to Moscow taking 
similar action despite their concern about a boomerang effect on their own 
economies.

   "I understand that additional sanctions may not change Mr. Putin's 
calculus," Obama said during a joint news conference in Tokyo with Japanese 
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "How well they change his calculus in part depends 
on not only us applying sanctions but also the cooperation of other countries."

   The president's comments came one week after Russia signed an agreement with 
the U.S., Ukraine and Europe that called for pro-Russian forces to leave the 
government buildings they have occupied throughout eastern Ukraine and allow 
international monitors into the region. But there's been little indication that 
Russia is following through on its commitments.

   "There was some possibility that Russia could take the wiser course after 
the meeting in Geneva," Obama said. "So far at least, we have seen them not 
abide by the spirit or the letter of the agreement."

   The president said the U.S. has crafted a new package of sanctions to punish 
Russia for failing to follow through on the Geneva accord, but he stopped short 
of saying he had, in fact, decided to move forward with those penalties.

   "There's always the possibility that Russia tomorrow or the next day takes a 
different course," he said. "Do I think they're going to do that? So far the 
evidence doesn't make me hopeful."

   Echoing comments from other officials in Washington, Obama said a decision 
on the sanctions would come in a matter of days, not weeks. That timeline would 
appear to put the decision in the midst of Obama's eight-day Asia trip, which 
also includes stops in South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

   The pending penalties on Russia are expected to target wealthy individuals 
in Putin's inner circle, as well as the entities they oversee. Although U.S. 
has also threatened to levy potentially crippling sanctions on key Russian 
industries --- including its robust energy sector --- officials say they only 
plan to employ those tougher penalties if Russia moves military forces into 
Ukraine.

   The U.S. and Europe have already issued asset freezes and visa bans 
targeting Russian and Ukrainian officials in response to the Kremlin's 
annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. But those penalties have appeared to do 
little to convince to Putin to avoid fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, where 
the U.S. is accusing Russia of fomenting unrest.

   Putin has denied that his country is the guiding force behind the 
pro-Russian insurgents who have occupied government buildings in nearly a dozen 
cities in Ukraine's east. Russian officials have instead focused their 
attention on the forces Ukraine's government has sent to the region in an 
effort to counter the occupying insurgents.

   "If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have 
been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia, I do not see any other 
way but to respond in full accordance with international law," Russian Foreign 
Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday. He was referring to the 2008 war that 
led to the breaking away of the Georgian republic of South Ossetia.

   In that conflict, Russia launched an invasion of Georgia after it unleashed 
an artillery attack on the capital of the separatist region, where Russian 
peacekeeping forces were stationed.


(KA)


 
 
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