Fresh US sanctions pile pressure on Putin
THE US launched a tough new round of targeted economic sanctions against the cronies of Vladimir Putin as it attempted "to ratchet up the pressure" on the Russian president and deter him from invading Ukraine.
The Kremlin vowed it would deliver a "painful" response to the sanctions imposed yesterday on 17 Russian businesses and seven individuals including Igor Sechin, the boss of the Russian oil giant, Rosneft, which is 20pc owned by BP.
As the share price of both companies slipped on the news yesterday, senior Obama administration officials warned that any incursion into Ukraine by Russian forces would trigger devastating sanctions against sectors of Russia's economy.
"We've been very clear that one trigger is a Russian invasion across the border," an official said, noting that the US Treasury had kept plenty of room to escalate sanctions if necessary.
Both sides intensified the rhetoric surrounding the most serious East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Jacob Lew, the US Treasury Secretary, declared Russia's "dangerous and inflammatory" actions in Ukraine to be "illegal and illegitimate".
Sergei Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, said Moscow would respond to the US actions. "We are certain that this response will have a painful effect on Washington," he said.
Europe is expected to follow the US lead this morning when it announces it will impose asset freezes and travel bans on a further 15 prominent Russians. (© Daily Telegraph, London)