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Obama threatens Russia with additional sanctions

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US President Barack Obama has threatened Russia with additional sanctions over its stance towards the crisis in Ukraine.

During a phone conversation with his French counterpart Francois Hollande on Friday, Obama praised the Kiev government’s plans for a presidential election later this month and repeated threats of new sanctions against Russia if Moscow’s “provocative and destabilizing” behavior in Ukraine continues.

According to the White House, the two leaders also discussed an upcoming regional conference in Paris organized to improve cooperation to combat the threats posed by Boko Haram, the Takfiri group that recently abducted nearly 300 girls in Nigeria.

Obama’s threat against Moscow came one day after his Secretary of State, John Kerry, said Russia should “let Ukraine vote” in the presidential election which is scheduled for May 15 or face sanctions as he stressed that “I’m not going to get into announcing today what the sanctions are.”

US sanctions against Russia have so far targeted several individuals and entities, including SMP Bank and Bank Rossiya. The sanctions involve a US travel ban and a freeze on any assets these individuals and entities hold in the United States.

However, despite repeated threats, the US has not yet announced any sanctions that would target key sectors of the Russian economy.

Citing a senior State Department official, the Associated Press said on Thursday that Washington shared its strategy to use a “scalpel rather than a hammer” to target vulnerabilities in Russia’s business, banking, mining, energy, defense, or other sectors.

This comes as Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich announced last week that Moscow imposed sanctions against more US officials and stressed that Russia’s measure was not a publicity stunt.

Earlier this year, a number of high-ranking US officials – including House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, and Sen. John McCain – were placed under sanctions imposed by the Russian government.

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