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Ukraine

As separatists seize more territory in Ukraine, US and EU add to Russia sanctions

The US and EU have imposed new sanctions on Russian officials and companies, including firms connected with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, separatists have seized yet another government building in Ukraine.

Sanctions to target defense industry

On Monday, the US imposed sanctions on seven Russian officials - including travel bans and a freeze on assets - and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin. Shortly after, EU leaders meeting in Brussels added the names of 15 Russians to the European Union's sanctions list.

"The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin personally," US President Barack Obama had told reporters earlier Monday in the Philippines, where he was wrapping up a tour of Asia. "The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions ... could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul and to encourage him to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk."

Fresh EU and US threats to isolate Russia economically and diplomatically come just two days after the Group of Seven major economies agreed to "intensify targeted sanctions," citing Ukraine's need for orderly polls in the upcoming presidential elections.

Before the weekend, the US and European allies had agreed in principle on plans to step up sanctions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had backed the plan amid claims that Russia had not held up its end of a deal struck in Geneva to end the separatist standoff in eastern Ukraine. Not present at the negotiations between US, EU, Russian and Ukrainian leaders were the separatists themselves, who refused to abide by the terms of the deal.

On Monday, four British Typhoon jets arrived in Lithuania and four French Rafale jets touched down in Poland to reinforce NATO patrols, the countries‘ defense ministries announced.

Mayor shot

Mayor Hennady Kernes of Kharkiv is in critical condition after being shot in the back as he rode his bike.

"Doctors are fighting for his life," a city hall spokesman told the Interfax news agency.

Kernes had opposed the movement to topple President Viktor Yanukovych in February, but has since softened his stance toward the interim government. At a meeting of eastern Ukrainian leaders and acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk earlier this month, for example, Kernes had insisted that he backed a united Ukraine and did not support pro-Russia separatists.

Separatists also seized the city hall (pictured) and police station in Kostyantynivka, 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Russia‘s border. Ukraine's security service estimates that the separatists have captured about 40 people and locked them in makeshift jails in Slovyansk - including journalists, pro-Ukraine activists and seven military observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. On Monday, Germany called for Russia to help secure hostages' immediate release.

"We ask the Russian government to act publicly and internally for their release, to distance itself clearly from such acts and to use its influence on pro-Russian perpetrators and forces in eastern Ukraine to secure their release," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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