White House Orders Sanctions Against Russia

     WASHINGTON (CN) - President Barack Obama ordered sanctions Thursday against any individual or entity the White House links to Russia's incursion into the Crimea region of Ukraine.
     The executive order freezes assets and denies a U.S. visa to any party the White House deems connected to "actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine."
     Without specifically naming the parties the sanctions will affect, the order purports to include those involved directly and indirectly, including those who have provided material, goods, services or technological support.
     "This E.O. is a flexible tool that will allow us to sanction those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea, and does not preclude further steps should the situation deteriorate," the White House said in a statement.
     Previously the White House had suspended bilateral discussions with Russia on trade and investment and suspended other bilateral meetings on a case-by-case basis.
     The United States has put other activities with Russia on hold as well, including military exercises and port visits. Preparations for the G-8 Summit planned at Sochi in June are also on hold, and NATO has beefed up its air patrols in the Baltic nations near Russia's border.
     Obama called for the nation's support of his approach.
     "While we take these steps, I want to be clear that there is also a way to resolve this crisis that respects the interests of the Russian Federation, as well as the Ukrainian people," Obama said. "Let international monitors into all of Ukraine, including Crimea, to ensure the rights of all Ukrainians are being respected, including ethnic Russians. Begin consultations between the government of Russia and Ukraine, with the participation of the international community. Russia would maintain its basing rights in Crimea, provided that it abides by its agreements and respects Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. And the world should support the people of Ukraine as they move to elections in May."
     As explained in "Russia and the Soviet Union, a Historical Introduction," the Crimea region has a volatile history with many conquerors in its past. It belonged to the Mongol Empire in the 1300s and 1400s when Tatars controlled Russia. The Ottoman Empire took control next Russia annexing the region in 1783.
     Russia fought the French and British over influence in the region with the Crimean War from 1853 to 1856. In that war, allied troops besieged and took Sevastopol in 1855, home of Russia's Black Sea Fleet then and now. Florence Nightingale also secured her place in history as the founder of modern nursing in that conflict.
     Germany went on to conquer the region in both world wars. In 1954, the Soviet Union transferred control of the Crimea to Ukraine.