The United States and the European Union announced stricter sanctions against Russia on Thursday, ratcheting up pressure against the country for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis as government and separatist forces on the ground struggle to maintain a tenuous, Kremlin-endorsed cease-fire.
The sanctions, which go into effect Friday, take aim at Russia’s energy sector and further constrict the country’s vital financial and defense industries’ access to global markets and resources. They strengthen measures that the United States and the E.U. instituted in late July to target key engines of the Russian economy after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine.
Western leaders threatened to step up sanctions in recent weeks after Russia was accused of sending military vehicles, weapons and troops into Ukraine to bolster separatist forces fighting the Ukrainian army in the eastern regions. Russian leaders have denied the accusation.
But the United States and the E.U. stressed that they stand ready to reduce or even undo the sanctions if Russia shows it is committed to the peace process in Ukraine and the continued implementation of a cease-fire agreement, struck last week in Belarus.
“We have yet to see conclusive evidence that Russia has ceased its efforts to destabilize Ukraine,” President Obama said in a statement announcing the new sanctions. “As I said last week, if Russia fully implements its commitments, these sanctions can be rolled back. If, instead, Russia continues its aggressive actions and violations of international law, the costs will continue to rise.”