The Obama administration sent Russia a warning shot Thursday, saying it will target individuals and groups tied to the crisis in Ukraine with financial sanctions and visa bans.
The State Department will block visas needed to travel to the U.S. for Ukrainian and Russian individuals who it believes have threatened the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
The visa bans are in addition to the 20 Ukrainian officials targeted by the department for the government's crackdown against demonstrators last month.
President Obama also signed an executive order that will allow financial sanctions against individuals and officials who have undermined the Ukrainian government, violated the country's territorial integrity, misused state funds, or tried to take control of part of the country without the approval of the government in Kiev, a senior administration official said.
The official added that these sanctions can target Ukrainian and Russian individuals, or those who have provided support or are controlled by them.
Carney called the executive order "a flexible tool that will allow us to sanction those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea."
And though no individuals have yet been hit with the sanctions or a visa ban, another senior administration official stressed, "This authority is now in place. and we will be looking to use it as appropriate."
The State Department can also revoke visas if a targeted individual already has one.
"We've been preparing very quickly this executive order; we believe that there need to be costs and consequences for Russia for what they've already done in Crimea," a senior administration official said, adding that individuals involved in the recent tensions should be "on notice."
Thursday morning's announcement is the latest move by the U.S. government to try to isolate Russia for its incursion into Crimea. The Pentagon announced earlier this week that it suspended all direct military involvement with Russia.
How Thursday's decision will impact Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision making is murky at best. As a senior administration official said earlier this week, "We in this administration have made it a practice to not look into Vladimir Putin's soul."
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