- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2014

The White House said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “losing” the war in Ukraine and that the European Union was set to target Moscow’s economy with new sanctions, while Ukrainian troops advanced toward the site of the downed Malaysia Airlines jet in heavy fighting with pro-Russia rebels.

“On the battlefield itself, the Ukrainians are doing very well against the separatists in trying to regain the sovereignty of their entire country,” said Tony Blinken, White House deputy national security adviser. “Russia’s proxies are right now on the losing end of the fight.”

Mr. Blinken said the war in Ukraine has been “a strategic loser for Russia” that has sent the Russian economy into a tailspin since its forces annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine in March.

“There is talk that Russia has … ‘won’ Crimea. But the fact of the matter [is that] what’s happened is it lost Ukraine,” Mr. Blinken said. “Ukraine is more united in a Western orientation than ever before.”

And in a phone call Monday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden told Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk that the U.S. will provide a total of $7 million for reconstruction in newly liberated areas of eastern Ukraine, including $1 million in new aid. The money will pay for clean drinking water and other small reconstruction projects.

Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken speaks about Russia, Ukraine as well as the Middle East conflict during an appearance at the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) **FILE**
Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken speaks about Russia, Ukraine as well ... more >

The White House’s rhetoric was typical of past taunts designed to get under Mr. Putin’s skin, such as President Obama’s comment in 2013 that the Russian leader resembled a “bored kid in the back of the classroom.” Mr. Blinken acknowledged that the gradually increasing sanctions imposed by the West have not altered Mr. Putin’s course to date in eastern Ukraine.

Instead, Moscow has built up its troops along the Ukrainian border, fired missiles at Ukrainian military units and supplied the rebels with heavy weapons.

For those reasons, administration officials said, the European Union will impose broader economic sanctions on Russia as early as Tuesday. President Obama held a video conference call Monday with the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy on the subject.

European Union member states were expected to try to reach a final deal on Tuesday on stronger measures that would include closing the bloc’s capital markets to Russian state banks, an embargo on future arms sales and restrictions on energy technology and technology that could be used for defense.

Germany, which had been reluctant to agree to tougher sanctions because of its trade links with Russia, said the downing of the airliner meant such measures were now necessary.

Russia played down the impact of sanctions.

“We can’t ignore it. But to fall into hysterics and respond to a blow with a blow is not worthy of a major country,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

French President Francois Hollande said in a statement that the leaders confirmed their intention to adopt new sanctions.

The office of Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said the EU “should agree [on] a strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible.”

“They agreed that the EU and United States should continue to work together to exert pressure on Russia to change course and to engage in a political resolution to the crisis before more innocent lives are lost,” Mr. Cameron’s office said.

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