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March 13, 2014 AT 12:28 PM
In the usual tit-for-tat on Thursday, Russia’s government threatened sanctions against the U.S. and Europe if Washington opts to economically punish Russia for its role in the Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine on Sunday. Sunday’s vote will likely lead to an expansion of the war rhetoric. The White House had already announced visa bans on Russians they deem connected to the crisis. Names were not published. Moreover, a U.S. bill expected to introduce broader and tougher sanctions against Russian government officials passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday and will now advance to a full vote in Congress. According to Reuters, Russia began military exercises near Ukraine’s border today in what amounts to a “raising the flag” ahead of Sunday’s referendum on secession in Crimea.