President Obama on Monday issued an executive order that authorizes U.S. officials to freeze the American assets of Yelena Mizulina, a state Duma deputy, and six other Russian officials over escalating tensions between Moscow and Kiev that include Sunday’s referendum on whether Crimea should declare its independence from Ukraine.
“We have fashioned these sanctions to impose costs on named individuals who wield influence in the Russian government and those responsible for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine,” said the White House in a statement.
The Treasury Department also brought sanctions on two Crimean politicians, ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Medvedchuk who chairs the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian Choice party. The European Union on Monday imposed travel bans and froze the assets of Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Dmitry Rogozin and more than a dozen other Russian and Crimean officials as the Moscow Times reported.
“Today’s actions send a strong message to the Russian government that there are consequences for their actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including their actions supporting the illegal referendum for Crimean separation,” said the White House. “The United States, together with international partners, will continue to stand by the Ukrainian government to ensure that costs are imposed on Crimean separatists and their Russian backers.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin last June signed Mizulina’s bill into law after the state Duma unanimously approved it. Controversy over the statute, the Kremlin’s human rights record and escalating tensions between Moscow and Kiev overshadowed the 2014 Winter Olympics that took place last month in Sochi.
Gay journalist Jamie Kirchick and András Simonyi, the former Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S. who is the managing director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Transatlantic Relations in D.C., and Spectrum Human Rights are among those who have urged the Obama administration to use a 2012 law to freeze the assets of Mizulina and others directly responsible for Russia’s anti-LGBT crackdown and prevent them from entering the country. The White House did not add the names to the Magnitsky Act named in honor of the eponymous Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after authorities arrested him following his investigation into a $230 million tax fraud scheme before last December’s deadline passed.
Members of Spectrum Human Rights last month gathered in Dupont Circle to protest Mizulina and other Russian and Ukrainian lawmakers.