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US escalating economic sanctions against Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States imposed new sanctions Wednesday on Russia's lucrative energy and defense entities, as well as a handful of banks, as the Obama administration struggles for a way to quell an insurgency in eastern Ukraine widely believed to be backed by Moscow. The penalties significantly expand on previous U.S. sanctions, which were limited to Russian individuals and companies. But the new sanctions stop short of fully cutting off key Russian economic sectors, a step U.S. officials said they were continuing to hold in reserve in case Moscow launches a full-scale invasion of Ukraine or takes similarly provocative actions. The Treasury Department listed the Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs, Gazprombank Gas Industry, Rosneft Oil Co. and the Joint Stock Company Military-Industrial Corp. as among the sanctioned entities. The U.S. announcement came as European leaders met into the night in Brussels to discuss taking their own measures aimed at helping ease tensions along Russia's border with Ukraine. EU diplomats were also looking at penalties that would go beyond the current travel bans and asset freezes against individuals, though it was unclear whether their sanctions would go as far the U.S. Some European leaders have been wary of deepening penalties on Moscow out of fear that their own economies could suffer, given the deep trade ties with Russia. In recent days, Obama administration officials have been pressuring their European counterparts to press forward and warning that they could take unilateral action if the EU continued to hesitate.

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