US President Barack Obama. Photo Reuters
US President Barack Obama and European leaders, in a show
of solidarity, have agreed to impose a wider set of sanctions
against Russia's financial, defence and energy sectors in the
wake of the shootdown of a passenger jet over Eastern Ukraine,
a top Obama aide says.
The coordinated measures come as the United States warned of
a Russian troop buildup along the border with eastern Ukraine
and the shipment of new sophisticated weapons to pro-Russian
The new sanctions, which Obama and leaders of Germany,
Britain, France and Italy discussed in a rare five-way
conference call by video and phone, are aimed at increasing
the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"It's precisely because we've not yet seen a strategic turn
from Putin that we believe it's absolutely essential to take
additional measures and that's what the Europeans and the
United States intend to do this week," said Tony Blinken, a
national security adviser to Obama.
Obama and top aides have been working behind the scenes to
convince European allies to impose sanctions against Russia
that are on par with US sanctions. Europe's response to
Russian aggression in Ukraine has been more tepid than that
of the United States because its economy is more entwined
Blinken told reporters existing sanctions have hurt Russia's
economy, but have not been enough to force Putin to back off.
Instead, Blinken said Russia has increased the supply of
heavy weapons to the separatists.
"We've seen convoys of tanks, multiple rocket launchers,
artillery, and armored vehicles. There's evidence it's
preparing to deliver even more powerful multiple rocket
launchers," Blinken said.
A Russian troop buildup on the border is also raising
concerns that Russia could create a pretext for an incursion
into eastern Ukraine to support the increasingly embattled
rebels who have been blamed for shooting down a Malaysian
passenger plane July 17.
"We've seen a significant rebuild up of Russian forces along
the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called
humanitarian or peacekeeping intervention in Ukraine," he