(Adds comments from Lew, U.S. congressman)
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, April 29 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on Tuesday that international sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis were putting pressure on Russia’s economy, and more actions may be taken if Moscow’s stance does not change.
“You have to look over the period of time Russia went into Crimea, since we’ve imposed sanctions, there has been a quite substantial deterioration in Russia’s already weak economy. We see it in their stock exchange, we see it in their exchange rate, we see it in a number of important economic indicators,” Lew told a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
Asked whether the United States and European allies will target Russia’s energy or banking sectors with sanctions, Lew said those actions have been considered and could be taken under a presidential executive order that provides sanctions authority.
“We need to continue to keep our options open. We are prepared to take more action and we’ve made clear that we’re prepared to take more action if the policy of Russia doesn’t change,” Lew said.
The United States on Monday announced a new round of sanctions aimed at business leaders and companies close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, while the European Union followed up on Tuesday by naming 15 Russians and Ukrainians to its blacklist, moving to freeze assets and deny visas.
The moves were dismissed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said they defied common sense and were the work of weak politicians in the West “attempting to blame others” for violence in Ukraine.
U.S. Representative Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois who traveled to Ukraine as part of a congressional delegation, told Lew that sanctions targeting the oil and banking sectors would have been more effective as a new round of pressure.
Lew responded by saying the latest moves target some of the most important people in the Russian energy and industrial sectors.
“They’ve gotten the message that we’re serious,” he added. “They’ve gotten the message that we have more actions that we have and will take.”
Lew said further sanctions would be most effective if the United States and Europe stay unified, and added that Europe’s actions demonstrated strong cooperation. (Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Doina Chiacu)