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US to keep expanding sanctions over Crimea - under secretary

WASHINGTON, April 12. /ITAR-TASS/. The United States will keep expanding sanctions over the events in Crimea, a former Ukrainian region that recently became part of Russia, US Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said.

“Crimea is occupied territory. We will continue to impose costs on those involved in ongoing violations of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Cohen said in a statement on Friday. The US Department of the Treasury reported Friday that sanctions were imposed against seven Crimean top officials and the Crimea-based Chernomorneftegaz energy company.

The Department’s blacklist of people who the US nationals are banned from maintaining business contacts with and whose accounts within the US jurisdiction are to be frozen contains Crimean Security Service head Pyotr Zima, acting Sevastopol governor Alexey Chaly and Yury Zherebtsov, an adviser to the Crimean State Council speaker.

Crimean State Council (parliament) deputy and chairman of the Crimean Council of Russian Compatriot Organizations Sergey Tsekov, First Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea Rustam Temirgaliyev, Crimean Central Election Commission head Mikhail Malyshev and Sevastopol Election Commission chairman Valery Medvedev are also on the list. According to the Department of the Treasury, “these individuals and this entity [Chernomorneftegaz] are being sanctioned for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine”.

The United States also accused them of “actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, or misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine; or having asserted governmental authority over any part or region of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine”.

In an interview with the CrimeaInform news agency, Crimean Information Minister Dmitry Polonsky said Friday the new US sanctions against the leaders of Crimea will not be able to harm the republic and are like “mosquito bites”.

The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, signed reunification deals with Russia on March 18 after a referendum two days earlier in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

The developments came after a coup in Ukraine in February that occurred following months of anti-government protests, often violent. Crimea and Russia refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities.

The new Ukrainian leadership and the West keep claiming the Crimean plebiscite was illegal and refuse to recognize Crimea part of Russia, although Moscow has repeatedly stated that the Crimean referendum complied with the international law and the UN Charter, and was in line with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008.

Western countries have even imposed targeted sanctions on some Russian officials following Crimea’s reunification with Russia, but Moscow has responded tit for tat.