- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2014

President Obama on Monday slapped Russia with the kinds of economic sanctions not seen since the Cold War, but the administration’s supposed hard line was met with mockery and a “collective shrug” in Moscow, Kiev and Washington.

One day after Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, the White House and its partners in the European Union responded by targeting high-ranking officials in Moscow along with pro-Russian figures responsible for the unrest in Ukraine.

The move adds even more tension to a dramatic standoff between Russia and the West, but early signs suggest the latest round of sanctions will have little impact on Russian President Vladimir Putin as he moves toward annexation of Crimea and, some fear, an all-out invasion of Ukraine.

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Even some of those directly affected by the U.S. and European sanctions laughed them off and openly mocked Mr. Obama.

“Comrade Obama, what should those who have neither accounts nor property abroad do? Have you not thought about it?” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in a message on Twitter. He is one of the seven Russian officials directly targeted by the president in an executive order signed Monday morning. “I think the decree of the President of the United States was written by some joker.”

The sanctions specifically target officials close to Mr. Putin, though neither the Russian president nor Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was among those named.

SEE ALSO: Russia signs treaty seizing Crimea

In the order, Mr. Obama declared all American-controlled assets of the Russian officials frozen and said they “may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn or otherwise dealt.”

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Obama said there is still time for Russia to pull back and resolve the situation peacefully and diplomatically, but stressed that the U.S. and its partners are prepared to take further action if the crisis escalates.

“We’ll continue to make clear to Russia that further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world,” the president said. “The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. And continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy.”

He also reiterated that the U.S. and its allies will not recognize the results of the Crimean referendum Sunday.

Mr. Putin, however, declared Crimea a “sovereign and independent country” on Monday. Mr. Putin will address both houses of the Russian parliament Tuesday on the unfolding situation on the Crimean Peninsula, home to Russian military bases and a large population of ethnic Russians.

The chairman of the State Duma — the main Russian parliamentary body — said Moscow will act “swiftly and responsibly” to make necessary decisions relating to Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The remarks by Sergei Naryshkin were reported Monday by Interfax, a private news agency in Russia.

A delegation of Crimean lawmakers Monday traveled to Moscow to consult with Russian officials on how to proceed.

Also Monday, the Kremlin urged Ukraine to take steps toward a new constitution that would give the nation a more federal structure — potentially increasing the power of the ethnic Russian-dominated east — and to adopt a “neutral political and military status,” effectively ruling out membership in the European Union and NATO.

Kiev dismissed the proposal as “an ultimatum.”

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