U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Friday that new, more punishing sanctions on Russia will be necessary if Russia continues to destabilize the situation in Ukraine around elections scheduled for May 25.
At a joint press conference, the two leaders — who have been key in shaping Russian sanctions to date — said any disruption of the May 25 election from Russia would have to trigger tougher sanctions on key sectors of the Russian economy.
“The next step is going to be a broader-based, sectoral sanctions regime,” Obama said at the press conference.
“Further sanctions will be unavoidable,” Merkel later added.
For the U.S., the position is something of a shift. When the White House announced new sanctions on Russian officials and businesses earlier this week, senior Obama administration officials had stressed sectoral sanctions would be likely in the case of “any escalation.” The U.S. officials said they were “confident” in European support for these types of sanctions in the event Russia moved its troops across the Ukrainian border.
Neither leader offered any insight into precise sanctions being considered, with Obama saying “experts” were still working on how to structure them. Obama said the “goal is not to punish Russia,” but to give Russian President Vladimir Putin an “incentive” to work toward diplomacy.
On the ground Friday, the situation in Ukraine continued to deteriorate. Ukraine launched an offensive in the city of Slaviansk, where pro-Russian separatists had taken control. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, said Ukraine’s attack violated a Geneva peace accord.
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