The expected de-escalation is still missing – hence the US and the EU hardened the sanctions against Russia. The names of the new persons hit by European restrictions will be made official lately with the publication of their names into the Official Journal, yet we already know they will probably be 15 new Ukrainian and Russian personalities, “responsible of actions which threatened or are still threatening the territorial integrity, the sovereignty and the independence of Ukraine.” Restrictions will deal with visa issuance and assets freezing. This is not the expected “step 3” of the sanctions – the one including economic measures specifically targeted on Russia, we can consider it as a “deeper step 2” (where the EU had already hit 33 persons, including several close collaborators of President Putin).
The US had turned the screw too: Washington targeted 7 Russian officials, including the head of the giant energy company Rosneft, Igor Sechin, and 17 companies closely connected to Putin’s entourage. Even Gennady Timchenko, one of the owners of Gazprom, is included in the blacklist.
The US imposed strict limitations to exports towards Russia, arranging the withdrawal of the licences for all the materials that could be used also in the military field. These new sanctions are intended to punish the so-called “provocative acts” by Moscow in Ukraine.
Russia replied swiftly – and angrily. “For sure we will give an answer, and we are sure its effects will hurt the US,” said the Foreign Deputy Minister, Sergei Ryabkov. The new sanctions decided by the US will have weak effects on the Russian economy, tried to minimise the first economic advisor of the Russian President, Andrei Belousov. “There will probably be some consequences, but it is not probable they will have a significant effect” on the economy “on a year basis,” he added.
The situation on the ground worsened over time. The mayor of Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes, is fighting for his life after he was severely shot. An attack that is attributed to Moscow and pro-Russian militias by most observers. In the meantime, pro-Russian separatists continue with their march: about twenty armed men occupied the police headquarters in another eastern Ukrainian city, Kostyantynivka, and later assaulted and occupied the town hall. This is the same city where the OSCE observers are kept detained. No news about their possible release: just one of them was released due to health problems, and now negotiations continue to set the others free. Pro-Russian separatists detaining them asked for an exchange with some arrested separatists.