(Adds quote and details on how the measure aims to restrict
Gazprom, names of people placed under sanctions, background)
By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON, April 11 The United States on Friday
imposed sanctions on a Crimea-based gas company,
Chernomorneftegaz, effectively putting it off limits to Russia's
state-controlled Gazprom, which was expected to bid
for a stake in the company.
The move, along with penalties on six Crimean separatists
and a former Ukrainian official, is the third round of U.S.
sanctions since the Ukraine crisis erupted and lays down a
harder line ahead of talks among U.S., Russian, Ukrainian and EU
officials in Geneva on Wednesday.
Russian forces took over Crimea last month and Moscow
annexed the Ukrainian region on March 18, angering Western
powers who say Russia has massed forces on its border with
Ukraine, possibly as a prelude to seizing more of the country.
Russia denies having such plans.
While there is no talk of the West going to war over
Ukraine, the Western response has included economic sanctions,
efforts to bolster the defenses of other European nations who
fear Russia, and strong condemnation of Moscow's actions.
In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department named the
individuals placed under sanctions as separatists Pyotr Zima,
Aleksei Chaliy, Rustam Temirgaliev, Yuriy Zherebtsov, Mikhail
Malyshev, and Valery Medvedev and former Ukrainian official
U.S. officials said the move aimed to make it impossible for
Gazprom to have dealings with Chernomorneftegaz.
On April 1, Russia's energy minister said Gazprom would pay
for the construction of an undersea gas pipeline to Crimea and
would take part in a tender on the privatization of the local
"We are saying to the world, with some teeth, you are not
going to invest in Crimea with impunity," said a U.S. official.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of
the sensitivity of the diplomacy on Ukraine, added that if
Gazprom were to acquire part of Chernomorneftegaz or to deal
with it, the Russian oil company could face sanctions.
(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and