Obama announces new sanctions on Russia

The European Union is also expected to add targets to its Russia sanctions list later on Monday.

US President Barack Obama. Picture: AFP.

SLAVIANSK, UKRAINE - US President Barack Obama announced new sanctions against some Russians on Monday to stop President Vladimir Putin from fomenting the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, but said he was holding broader measures against Russia's economy "in reserve".

On the ground, pro-Moscow rebels showed no sign of curbing their uprising, seizing public buildings in another town in the east. Interfax news agency reported that the mayor of a further major eastern city, Kharkiv, had been shot and was undergoing an operation. It gave no details of the shooting.

Germany demanded Russia act to help secure the release of seven unarmed European military monitors, including four Germans, who have been held by the rebels since Friday.

The new US sanctions, to be outlined in detail later on Monday, will add more people and firms to a list announced last month of figures whose assets are frozen and who are denied visas to travel to the United States.

The European Union (EU) is also expected to add targets to its Russia sanctions list on Monday. Ambassadors from the 28 EU states met in Brussels and an EU diplomat said they were expected to add around 15 new names.

Washington will also target some high tech exports, Obama said. But the measures do not yet include the wider sanctions, such as curbs on the Russian financial and energy sectors, that would do the most serious damage to Russia's economy.

"We are keeping in reserve additional steps that we could take should the situation escalate further," Obama said, acknowledging that he did not know if the measures he has ordered so far will work.

US officials have said the new list would include Putin's "cronies" in the hope of changing his behaviour.

"The goal is not to go after Mr Putin personally. The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he's engaging in in Ukraine could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul," Obama said in Manila during a trip to Asia.

"To encourage him to actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to diplomatically resolving the crisis in Ukraine."

Nevertheless, such measures have done nothing so far to deter Putin, who overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy last month to seize and annex Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and has since massed tens of thousands of troops on the frontier. He acted after Ukraine's pro-Russian president was ousted in February by protesters demanding closer links with Europe.

Moscow has in the past shrugged off targeted sanctions like those Obama announced on Monday as pointless.