UPDATE 2-U.S. sanctions 38 individuals, entities over Russian actions in Ukraine

Ukraine@ (Adds details on Ukraine president's visit, context)

WASHINGTON, June 20 (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Tuesday sanctioned 38 individuals and organizations over Russia's actions in Ukraine, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement, reaffirming Washington's commitment to pressuring Moscow over its annexation of Crimea.

The latest round of sanctions targets Ukrainian and Russian officials and companies that U.S. authorities accuse of helping Russia tighten its grip on the Crimean Peninsula, an area of Ukraine annexed by Russia in 2014 and denounced by Western leaders as illegal.

The sanctions decision was announced just before Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House - and later dropped by the Oval Office to meet with President Donald Trump and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

"These designations will maintain pressure on Russia to work toward a diplomatic solution," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "This administration is committed to a diplomatic process that guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty, and there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations under the Minsk agreements."

The new sanctions freeze any assets of the individuals and organizations listed that are in U.S. banks and prohibit American companies from doing any business with those named.

The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The European Union on Monday extended the bloc's trade sanctions on Crimea for a year and diplomats said they expected the bloc to do the same for its sanctions on Moscow soon.

The new actions came after the U.S. Senate passed legislation last week that would impose new measures against Russia and limit Trump's ability to roll back sanctions against Russia in the future.

Peter Harrell a sanctions expert at the Center for a New American Security said he saw the bill, which is now headed to the U.S. House of Representatives, as a sign that lawmakers were "skeptical of Trump's intentions toward Russia."

Harrell said he believes Tuesday's actions by the administration were partly intended to ease those concerns and "to send a message to Congress that they do not need to enact new Russia sanctions." (Reporting by Joel Schectman Doina Chiacu, editing by G Crosse)