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Kerry Says U.S. Considering Sanctions on Russia for Ukraine Move

March 2 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is considering “all options” to penalize Russia for invading the Black Sea region of Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry said today.

If Russia doesn’t “step back” from its military incursion, “there could even be, ultimately, asset freezes, visa bans” and disruption of trade, Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

Laying out the economic stakes for Russia as the U.S. tries to defuse a crisis over Ukraine, Kerry also said Russia “may not even remain in the G-8 if this continues,” referring to the group of industrialized nations that Russia joined after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The top U.S. diplomat said any U.S. or NATO military intervention in Ukraine would be “the last thing anybody wants.” The crisis doesn’t presage a return to a Cold War stand-off between the U.S. and Russia, he said.

“This does not have to be, and should not be, an East-West struggle,” Kerry said. “This is not about Russia and the U.S. This is about the people of Ukraine.”

While Russia has legitimate interests in the mostly Russian-speaking Crimea region, “You just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests,” Kerry said.

By mobilizing troops in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin will “lose on the international stage” and his people will suffer economic hardship, Kerry said.

‘Pull Back’

“American business may pull back,” he said. “There may be a further tumble of the ruble.”

President Barack Obama yesterday moved to suspend U.S. preparations for a meeting of industrial nations in Russia in June, and told Putin that his country is violating international law by sending troops into Ukraine.

In a 90-minute phone call yesterday, Obama “expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to the White House.

Obama’s suspension of meetings to prepare for the Russian- hosted G-8 summit in June on trade and finance represented his first concrete public action on the Ukrainian crisis and suggests the U.S. could boycott the gathering altogether.

The U.S. also called for dispatching international observers to Crimea and other parts of Ukraine.

Crimea Incursion

Russia’s parliament voted yesterday to approve military use in Ukraine after Russian troops seized facilities in the country’s Crimea region. The military movements in Crimea, home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, risk destabilizing Ukraine as its new government negotiates with the U.S. and Europe for financial aid to avoid default.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties have been urging Obama to lead an international effort to impose diplomatic and economic sanctions on Russia if it attacks Ukraine, though they have stopped short of calling for armed intervention.

Actions suggested by the lawmakers include freezing the assets of senior Russian officials and boycotting altogether the G-8 meeting set for June in Sochi, Russia. Some Republicans said the U.S. and Western European allies also should consider suspending Russia from the G-8, a forum of the world’s seven leading industrialized democracies plus Russia.

Energy Route

Violence in Ukraine, an east-west energy route, escalated last month amid frustration among protesters in Kiev that demands for new elections and broader changes in governance were being ignored. Viktor Yanukovych, the former Russian-backed president of Ukraine, was deposed by Ukrainian lawmakers Feb. 22 after clashes with protesters left at least 82 people dead.

Putin is asserting his power over the Crimea region, part of Ukraine with large ethnic-Russian populations, after Yanukovych’s overthrow. Meanwhile, the U.S. has supported Ukraine’s new government.

A U.S. official described events in recent days as an orchestrated series of steps that are intended to make Russian military intervention in Crimea appear legitimate. The official requested anonymity to discuss classified intelligence matters.

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