Russia, U.S. impose sanctions against each other

Obama expanded the sanctions against Moscow targeting 20 individuals inside and outside the government

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President Barack Obama on Thursday expanded U.S. economic sanctions against Moscow, targeting 20 individuals inside and outside the government, as well as a Russian bank that provides them support.

Obama, warning of more costs to come for the Kremlin because of its actions in Ukraine, said he also signed an executive order that would allow the U.S. to penalize key sectors of the Russian economy.

The president said the penalties were the result of "choices the Russian government has made, choices that have been rejected by the international community."

The sanctions announced Thursday followed a first round of economic penalties levied earlier in the week on 11 people the U.S. said were involved in the dispute in Ukraine. Russia moved its military into Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula three weeks ago and has since formally annexed the strategically important region into its borders.

The U.S. has declared Russia's incursion into Crimea a violation of international law and does not recognize its annexation of the peninsula.

Russia hits back

Russia announced Thursday its own sanctions against the United States, specifically travel bans against nine U.S. officials, including senators and Obama's aides.

The blacklist includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner and Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as senators John McCain, Mary Landrieu and Daniel Coats.

Also on the list are Obama aides Caroline Atkinson, Daniel Pfeiffer and Benjamin Rhodes.

The announcement came minutes after the U.S. president announced the sanctions against Russia over the Crimea crisis.

"There should be no doubt: each hostile attack will be met in an adequate manner," the Russian foreign ministry said.

The foreign ministry said the travel bans were a response to the United States implementing financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers.

"We have repeatedly warned that the use of sanctioning instruments is a two-way street and will hit the United States as a boomerang," the ministry said.

Moscow reiterated that Crimea had overwhelmingly voted to be annexed by Russia and that the move was in line with international law, adding that Washington refused to acknowledge this fact.

"One may not like that decision but we are talking about a reality which needs to be taken into account," the foreign ministry said.

(With AP and AFP)