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Obama orders US trade ban on Crimea over Russia 'occupation'
[WASHINGTON] US President Barack Obama imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia-annexed Crimea on Friday with an executive order prohibiting American exports of goods or services to the contested peninsula and barring Crimean imports.
"The executive order is intended to provide clarity to US corporations doing business in the region and reaffirm that the United States will not accept Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea," Mr Obama said in a statement.
The action also bans new US investments in Crimea and authorises the US Treasury to impose sanctions on people and companies operating there.
"I again call on Russia to end its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, cease its support to separatists in eastern Ukraine, and fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreements," Mr Obama said.
The president's move comes a day after he signed into law a congressional bill allowing him to impose new sanctions on Russia over its alleged support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The law also authorises the president to send lethal weapons to Ukraine's military.
But Mr Obama stressed he would not change his administration's "carefully calibrated" sanctions policy on Russia.
Mr Obama's Crimea order follows the European Union's decision Thursday to also place new sanctions on Crimea, as a show of resolve against Moscow during an EU leaders summit where the bloc urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to make a "radical change" in his stance on Ukraine.
In the sanctions - coordinated with Washington - the EU agreed to ban all investment in Crimea and cruise ships from its ports.
Mr Obama said he "will continue to review and calibrate our sanctions, in close coordination with our international partners, to respond to Russia's actions." Western powers have repeatedly accused Russia of stoking the Ukraine crisis, which has killed at least 4,700 people and displaced close to one million, by supplying weapons and troops to the rebels.
Moscow denies the charge.