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US slaps new sanctions on Russia after East Ukraine referenda

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a screen set at Red Square as he addresses a celebration in central Moscow on September 30, 2022, marking Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia's separation from Ukraine and joining Russia after referendums were held in these regions. (Photo by AFP)

The United States slapped additional sanctions on Moscow in reaction to the East Ukraine referenda resulting in four territories joining Russia.

Residents in East Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions voted last weekend in separate referendums to join the Russian Federation.

Kiev and its US-led Western allies have refused to accept the referendums in the four territories. They called them "sham".

The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions against Moscow in response to the residents of the East Ukrainian regions voting to join Russia.

The departments of Treasury, Commerce, and State each announced separate sanctions intended to target more than a thousand individuals, including decision-makers in Moscow and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The latest round of sanctions was unveiled hours after Putin delivered a speech at the Kremlin in which he signed decrees to declare the four Ukrainian regions as part of Russia.

Putin cited the “will of millions of people” shown by the referendums as the determining factor behind the move to join the territories as part of Russia.

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Washington and its allies would never recognize the four Ukrainian territories as parts of Russia.

“This so-called referenda was a sham, an absolute sham, and the results were manufactured in Moscow,” Biden said at an event with Pacific island leaders. “And the true will of the Ukrainian people is evident every day as they sacrifice their lives to save their people and maintain the independence of their country and in defense of freedom as well.”

“The United States unequivocally rejects Russia’s fraudulent attempt to change Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including by holding sham ‘referenda’ in Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya regions. This is a clear violation of international law and the United Nations Charter,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Blinken warned Moscow's allies that there will be “costs for any individual, entity, or country that provides political or economic support to Russia as a result of its illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory.”

Meanwhile, the US Treasury and Commerce departments warned that anyone outside Russia, including individuals and companies, that provide political, economic or material support to Moscow faced a heightened risk of sanctions by the United States.

The Treasury sanctions generally freeze any US assets of those designated as Russian accomplices and bar Americans from dealing with them.

Treasury said it imposed sanctions on 14 people in Russia's military-industrial complex, two leaders of the central bank, family members of top officials and 278 members of the legislature "for enabling Russia's sham referenda and attempt to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory."

Russia's Central Bank governor Elvira Sakhipzadovna Nabiullina, families of Security Council members and more than 100 Russian Duma lawmakers were included in the new round of US sanctions.

Since Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine in late February, the Biden administration has slapped a slew of sanctions against Russian officials and its financial institutions.

Putin himself, his closest advisers and major banks have been targeted in the coordinated US attempt to cut off finances and deal a blow to the Russian economy.

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