The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on more Russian companies and individuals as well as separatists in rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine as President Donald Trump held White House talks with Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko.
The measures “are consistent with the U.S. commitment to seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine,” a Treasury annuncement said Tuesday. The sanctions “will remain in place until Russia fully honors its obligations under the Minsk Agreements,” while measures “related to Crimea will not be lifted until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula.”
Ukraine relied heavily on the support of former President Barack Obama as Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and stoked the three-year conflict on the two nations’ border that has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced 2 million. The U.S. was instrumental in imposing Western sanctions on Russia and also provided billions of dollars in aid along with some non-lethal military equipment. The European Union extended its Russia sanctions over the annexation of Crimea for a further year Monday.
While Trump suggested during his campaign that he may recognize Crimea and relax sanctions, probes into his team’s relationship with Russia have delayed any detente.
Ukraine is a “place that we’ve all been very much involved in,” Trump said at the meeting with Poroshenko. “We’ve had some very, very good discussions. It’s going to continue throughout the day, and I think a lot of progress has been made.”
The Treasury move comes as the House weighs a Senate plan to bolster sanctions on Russia and limit Trump’s authority to unilaterally lift existing restrictions. Under the bill, new sanctions could be levied on entities engaging in “malicious cyberactivity.” It would also require the administration to explain any moves to ease or lift sanctions and create a new mechanism for Congress to review and block such efforts.
There’s little prospect of a speedy resolution to the conflict. A 2015 peace accord negotiated by Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in Belarus has stalled as fighting continues to flare. The Kremlin has recently extended control over key economic links with the rebel republics, using a blockade imposed on the separatists by the government in Kiev as political cover.
Slight faux pas
As Trump greeted Poroshenko, he made an unfortunate slip. “It’s a great honor to be with President Poroshenko of the Ukraine,” Trump said. Poroshenko was not visibly upset by Trump’s choice of words, but on Twitter many pointed out the slip, with former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul saying it suggested he hadn’t been adequately briefed.
“A good prebrief from a staffer could have coached him on why ‘the Ukraine’ is so insulting to Ukrainians. He is the president after all,” McFaul posted.
But as others pointed out, plenty of other U.S. leaders have made the same mistake — including McFaul’s former boss, Barack Obama, in 2014.
The Washington Post contributed to this report.