US imposes sanctions against 7 Russians, 17 companies linked to Putin

WASHINGTON (REUTERS/AFP) - The United States on Monday imposed sanctions against seven Russian government officials and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin in its latest action to punish Moscow for its intervention in Ukraine.

The White House said the seven Russians, including Mr Igor Sechin, head of Russia's major oil company Rosneft and a close ally of Mr Putin, are now subject to a freeze on any assets they hold in the United States and a ban on US travel.

In addition, the United States will deny export licence applications for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russian military capabilities.

The Commerce and State Departments will revoke any existing export licences that meet these conditions, the White House said.

It was the third round of sanctions that the United States has imposed over Russia's intervention in the Crimea region and troop buildup near the border with Ukraine. All of the sanctions have been aimed at specific individuals and businesses.

The other people named were Mr Oleg Belavencev, Mr Sergei Chemezov, Mr Dmitry Kozak, Mr Evgeniy Murov, Mr Aleksei Pushkov and Mr Vyacheslav Volodin.

US President Barack Obama has made clear, however, that should Russia launch a military move deeper into Ukraine, the United States will slap sanctions on key sectors of the Russian economy, such as the financial services, energy, metals and mining, engineering and defence sectors.

Russia on Monday vowed to deliver a “painful” response to fresh US sanctions. “We will, of course, respond,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency. “We are certain that this response will have a painful effect on Washington.”

He provided no further details but stressed that Russia had a “broad range” of options.

The White House said the latest round of sanctions was in reaction to Russian failure to meet its commitments under a mid-April agreement to de-escalate the crisis.

"Russia's involvement in the recent violence in eastern Ukraine is indisputable," a White House statement said.