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Ukraine crisis: US, allies increase sanctions pressure on Russia

The US and its allies have sought to step up sanctions pressure on Russia over the deployment of troops in separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.

In one of Europe’s worst security crises in decades, Ukraine’s military said on Wednesday that one soldier had been killed and six wounded in increased shelling by pro-Russian separatists using heavy artillery, mortar bombs and Grad rocket systems in the two breakaway regions over the previous 24 hours.

According to US estimates, Russian President Vladimir Putin has massed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, and signed a decree on the deployment of troops in the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk enclaves to “keep the peace”.

On Monday, President Putin recognised the separatist enclaves in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine which adjoin Russia, deepening Western fears of a major war in Europe by raising the prospect of a full-scale invasion beyond the breakaway areas.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported the US, the European Union, Britain, Australia, Canada and Japan as responding with plans to target banks and elites, while Germany froze the huge Nord 2 gas pipeline project from Russia.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, announcing more measures on Wednesday, said London would stop Russia selling sovereign debt in the country.

“We’ve been very clear that we’re going to limit Russian access to British markets,” Ms Truss told Sky.

On Tuesday, the UK government had announced sanctions on three billionaires with close links to Mr Putin, and five small lenders including Promsvyazbank.

But, like other US allies, it has said more sanctions would come if Russia launched a full invasion of its neighbour.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brushed off the threat of sanctions on Tuesday.

“Our European, American, British colleagues will not stop and will not calm down until they have exhausted all their possibilities for the so-called punishment of Russia,” he said.

China said it never thought sanctions were the best way to solve problems, and called for “dialogue and consultation”.

Editing by Tony Okerafor