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U.S. imposes toughest sanctions yet on Russia over Ukraine

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WASHINGTON - The United States on Wednesday imposed its most wide-ranging sanctions yet onRussia's economy, including Gazprombank and the Rosneft Oil Co, and other major banks and energy and defense companies.

Washington has steadily escalated its financial sanctions on Russia over what it views as Moscow's interference in its neighbor Ukraine.

The new sanctions also include senior Russian officials, including the deputy head of the State Duma, or parliament, the minister of the Crimea, a commander of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and a Ukrainian separatist leader, several of whom had already been targeted by the European Union. Sanctions effectively cut the people and companies off from the U.S. financial system.

The sanctions, posted on the U.S. Treasury Department website, stopped short of targeting Gazprom, Russia's biggest gas company, which provides much of Europe's energy supplies.

They were announced on the same day that European Union leaders met in Brussels, where they also discussed new sanctions on Russia.

President Barack Obama in recent weeks has repeatedly threatened new sanctions, and appears to have run out of patience as fighting continued to rage in eastern Ukraine.

"There are some clear steps that we've asked Russia to take that they haven't taken. And that is what has elevated the risk that Russia faces right now as it relates to additional economic costs that could be imposed by the international community," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

Washington said on Wednesday up to 12,000 Russian forces were back on the border with Ukraine and that weaponry was crossing over to pro-Russian separatists.

"These are combat forces," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters. The increase in the Russian presence occurred several weeks after Moscow had drawn down its forces in the area to about 1,000 troops.

For more details on the sanctions, see http://1.usa.gov/1tSqqVG.

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