US could hit Putin with sanctions, State Department says

A sign advertising Visa and Mastercard payment services sits in the window of a Crocs shoe store inside the Okhotny Ryad shopping mall in Moscow.
Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The United States could potentially impose sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin himself over the crisis in Ukraine, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday, but she suggested such a step would not be taken soon.

Asked by Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy in an interview on Twitter whether the United States was considering the possibility of hitting Putin personally with sanctions, Psaki replied: "Yes. (Important) to lay out consequences. U.S. able to sanction people, companies, and sectors. Goal not sanctions. Goal de-escalation."

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She then added: "Range of officials under consideration. Plenty to sanction before we would discuss President Putin."

The United States has imposed visa bans and assets freezes on several Russian officials and lawmakers deemed involved in Russia's annexation of the Crimea region from Ukraine last month, and it has targeted businessmen with ties to Putin.

It has warned of further sanctions, including measures affecting entire economic sectors, if Russia does not follow enough on an agreement reached last week by the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union in a bid to deescalate the crisis.

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Asked about Putin's statements that Russia is not interfering in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have seized buildings and ignored the four-way agreement's demands that they surrender them, Psaki tweeted: "Putin rhetoric doesn't match facts on ground."

—By Reuters