To target individuals rather than sections of Russian economy

The United States and its allies have agreed to ramp up pressure on Russia over Ukraine as Kiev’s military crackdown on pro-Russian protesters in the east has stalled.

In a joint statement the Group of Seven nations said they would “move swiftly” on new sanctions against Russia, which “has taken no concrete actions” to implement the Geneva agreement on defusing the Ukraine crisis.

The statement was released by the White House on Friday when it became clear that Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation” in Ukraine’s southeast had bogged down.

Ukrainian authorities had called off an assault on the insurgents-held city of Sloviansk after Russia launched large-scale war games near the Ukrainian border, vowing to “stop the Ukrainian war machine” from attacking civilians.

U.S. President Barack Obama had a conference call with European leaders on Friday in an effort to marshal their support for broader sanctions against Russia, but their joint statement said the new sanctions would be “targeted,” that is, targeting individuals, rather than sections of the Russian economy.

Moreover, the sanctions will not necessarily be identical. A senior U.S. official said each G7 country will determine itself which targeted sanctions they will impose. The official said U.S. sanctions could come as early as Monday.

The G7 statement came as the Pentagon said Russian fighter jets ventured into Ukrainian airspace several times over the last 24 hours.

Ukraine’s Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was in Rome on Saturday, said Russian aircraft crossed the border “seven times” overnight.

However, Ukraine’s Acting Defence Minister was quoted by Ukrainian media as stating that there had been “no violations of Ukrainian land borders or airspace.”

Russia has also denied its aircraft had violated the Ukrainian airspace.

Ukraine’s Security Service said on Saturday that the military had set up four roadblocks near Sloviansk in order to prevent protesters from receiving reinforcements.

However, the measures failed to stop leaders of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk Republic” from travelling to the besieged city from Donetsk 130 km away on Saturday.

Addressing a press conference at the local government headquarters in Sloviansk leaders of the “Donetsk Republic” said they had drawn up plans to coordinate resistance tactics and that self-defence forces in Donetsk would shortly send reinforcements to Sloviansk.

Self-proclaimed Mayor of Slovyansk Vyacheslav Ponomaryov confirmed that his people had detained a group of international observers in Sloviansk on suspicion that they were gathering intelligence on protesters’ positions.

Mr. Ponomaryov said the group, which is in Ukraine on a military verification mission under the 2011 Vienna Document, had not notified him about their visit to Sloviansk. He said the protesters planned to exchange the observers for activists detained by Ukrainian security services.

AFP reports from Siauliai: U.S. troops arrived on Saturday in Lithuania, part of a U.S. contingent of 600 sent to the region to reassure NATO allies. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite hailed the arrival of American forces as a “deterrence measure.”

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