March 11, 2015 / 1:53 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. slaps sanctions on Ukrainian rebels, Russian bank

Pro-Russian rebels observe the area at a front line outside the village of Molochnoye, north-east from Donetsk, March 8, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday placed sanctions on eight Ukrainian separatists and a Russian bank, warning that recent attacks by rebels armed by Russia violated a European-brokered ceasefire in the war-torn country.

The sanctions signal Washington is ratcheting up pressure on Moscow a day after accusing Russia of sending tanks and heavy military equipment into Ukraine, which a top U.S. official also said breached the Minsk accord agreed on Feb. 12.

“If Russia continues to support destabilizing activity in Ukraine and violate the Minsk agreements and implementation plan, the already substantial costs it faces will continue to rise,” Adam Szubin, the Treasury Department’s acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement announcing the sanctions.

The sanctions ban any U.S. financial firm from doing business with sanctioned individuals or institutions.

Among the more prominent individuals sanctioned was Roman Lyagin, who chairs an election commission in separatist territory. The U.S. Treasury accused him of preventing voting in Ukraine’s May presidential election.

Lyagin said he was not a fighter and was playing a peaceful role in the separatists’ activities.

“It’s the opposite, I do my best to stop the bloodshed,” he said.

Washington also sanctioned the Russian National Commercial Bank, which the Treasury said moved into Ukraine’s Crimea region after it was annexed by Russia in 2014.

(This refiled version of the story changes day in first paragraph to Wednesday)

Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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