State Dep’t Won't Say If Putin Is on Its Visa-Ban List

By Patrick Goodenough | March 6, 2014 | 10:31pm EST

President Obama greets Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, Monday, June 18, 2012. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

( – The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled steps it is taking against those who have threatened Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but a State Department spokeswoman hinted that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not among those now being targeted.

Speaking at the White House, President Obama said the “cost” to Russia for its intervention in Ukraine’s Crimea region includes a visa ban against “certain individuals and officials,” and a separate executive order establishing an authority for the Treasury Department to impose sanctions against individuals and entities “responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Officials explained that the first step, the visa ban, is now in place, while the second is at this stage a framework authorizing sanctions that are yet to be imposed against targets yet to be determined.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a press briefing that the administration by law could not make public the names on the visa ban list, which she said “includes Ukrainians and Russians.”

Asked whether she could confirm that Putin was not on the list, Psaki demurred.

“I don’t think we’re going to do a who’s on or isn’t, or who is on it or isn’t on it,” she said. “Obviously, taking a step like that against a head of state is – would be a significant step, and it is not what we are leading with here in this process.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked numerous times during a subsequent daily briefing about targeting Putin directly, and each time pointed to the fact that the Treasury has yet to impose sanctions against anyone under the executive order.

“Judgments about individuals and entities that will be targeted with sanctions will be made along the way, but I’m not going to speculate about who or what entity might be included in that list.”

However, Carney was not asked whether Putin was on the separate visa ban list, which unlike the sanctions list does already exist.

'At the feet of Vladimir Putin'

In a separate background briefing a senior administration official said the visa ban list targets “officials or other persons who have been complicit in or responsible for supporting actions which threaten the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, including the Russian troop movements not authorized to or consented to by the government of Ukraine.”

Those criteria include actions of which the administration has directly accused Putin. The Russian leader on March 1 sought and obtained parliamentary approval for Russian troops to enter Ukrainian territory, which they subsequently did. (Putin has denied the troops in Crimea are Russian soldiers, calling them “local self-defense units.”)

As the Crimea situation worsened in the hours after Putin received that approval from lawmakers, a senior administration official in a background teleconference briefing on March 2 said, “let’s put the blame for the Russian decision to invade Ukraine and violate Russia’s international commitments exactly where it belongs, which is at the feet of Vladimir Putin.”

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