Obama Imposes Sanctions On Russian Officials
Barack Obama has ordered the freezing of US assets and a ban on travel into the US of those involved in the Russian military intervention into the Crimea region of Ukraine.
Mr Obama signed an executive order aimed at punishing those Russians and Ukrainians responsible for a Russian move into Crimea, a crisis that has raised old-style Cold War tensions.
It cleared the way for financial sanctions that will penalise "those who are most directly involved in destabilising Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea, and does not preclude further steps should the situation deteriorate," the White House said in a statement.
The penalties will deepen significantly if Russia presses into areas of Eastern Ukraine, senior administration officials said, adding that there is currently no indication Moscow will take that step.
The officials also indicated that the penalties could be ratcheted down if Russia pulls back its troops in Crimea and recognises Ukraine's new government.
Washington wants Russian troops to return to their bases in Crimea and for Moscow to allow international monitors into the region to ensure the human rights of ethnic Russians there are protected.
"We call on Russia to take the opportunity before it to resolve this crisis through direct and immediate dialogue with the government of Ukraine," the White House statement read.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives prepares to pass the first aid bill for Ukraine's new, pro-Western government.
The House will vote on a bill providing loan guarantees to the government in Kiev that came to power last month after protesters ousted the country's pro-Russian leader. The Obama administration has promised $1bn in such financial support.
The Obama administration also took steps on Wednesday to support the defences of US allies in Europe.
The Pentagon this week will send six additional F-15 fighter jets and one KC-135 tanker to augment the four F-15s already in the region, according to US media.
:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.