POLITICS: PennAve

Top Democrat calls on Obama to target Russia's energy, financial sectors

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Politics,Congress,Barack Obama,Russia,National Security,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Carl Levin,Sanctions,Ukraine

The top Senate Democrat on military matters is calling on the Obama administration and European leaders to follow through on their threats to Russia and issue sanctions targeting the country's financial, energy and defense sectors.

After completing a two-day visit to Ukraine, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. and its western allies need to do more to help the Ukrainian people fend off “unrelenting pressure and threats from the Russian Armed Forces and the people they have brought in to support them.”

“Our support for the Ukrainian people must be resolute,” Levin told reporters in Kiev, stressing that the government there needs assistance to be able to “pull off a free, fair [presidential] election” set for May 11.

Obama's previously established executive order authorizing sanctions allows the U.S. to target Russian financial, energy, metals, mining, engineering and defense sectors, he said.

Levin said the administration should move forward with them “to ensure that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin pays a price for his illegal actions against Ukraine and his efforts to undermine democratic processes in this country.”

More Russian banks, in addition to the one the U.S. already has sanctioned, also should be targeted in order to “take on” Russia's manipulation of energy supplies, which Levin said Moscow uses to “coerce not only Ukraine, but also many of its neighbors.”

“To be effective, these actions must be taken in close coordination with our friends and allies in Europe — many of whom are directly affected by Russia’s abuses and threatened by its actions,” he said.

Levin also said the U.S. should expedite aid already promised to the Ukrainians and provide its military with additional support, including body armor and fuel.

The Michigan Democrat issued the statements a day after Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday issued what appeared to be a final warning to Russia to abide by an agreement made in Geneva a week ago to call on pro-Russian separatists occupying buildings in eastern Ukraine to stand down and give up their weapons.

In the eight days since Russia agreed to urge the separatists to abandon their posts in exchange for amnesty, Kerry said Russia has engaged in a campaign of “sabotage and subterfuge” to assist and even help them. He went so far to say that many of the groups involved in the eastern Ukrainian sieges include Russian special forces operators taking orders from Moscow.

During his trip to Ukraine, Levin met with senior political and military leaders, including Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov and Defense Minister Mykhaylo Koval.

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