Monday, March 17, 2014

Anti-gay Russian lawmaker sanctioned over Ukraine

Yelena Mizulina
By Brody Levesque | WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Monday froze the U.S. assets of seven Russian officials, including the Russian Duma Deputy (Member of Parliament) who authored the controversial anti-gay propaganda law last year, for their support of Crimea's vote to secede from Ukraine.
Administration officials say those Obama targeted also are key political players in Russia and who are also responsible for the country's tightening of human rights and civil liberties in Russia.
The financial assets of Deputy Yelena Mizulina and the others were ordered frozen in an executive order issued Monday the White House said in a statement.
The White House declined comment initially on whether her authorship of the anti-gay law contributed to the decision to freeze her assets, however a source at the Treasury Department told LGBTQ Nation late Monday that the president's decision was based on her status as a senior Russian parliament member and not her sponsorship of the bill.
Obama said he was moving to "increase the cost" to Russia, and he warned that more people could face financial punishment.
"We are imposing sanctions on specific individuals responsible for undermining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and government of Ukraine. We're making it clear that there are consequences for their actions," the president said. 
"If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions," Obama said.
The president added that he still believes there could be a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and that the sanctions can be based on whether Russia escalates or pulls back in its involvement.
The U.S. announcement came shortly after the European Union announced travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people they have linked to the unrest in Crimea. Obama administration officials say there is some overlap between the U.S. and European list, which wasn't immediately made public.
The McLean, Virginia based Spectrum Human Rights group along with AndrĂ¡s Simonyi, the former Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S. and current managing director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Transatlantic Relations, had sent an open letter to the president in January, urging Obama to expand an April 2013 list to include officials- including Mizulina- covered under the terms of the Magnitsky Act for human rights violations in Russia, particularly against the Russian LGBTQ community.
The Associated Press contributed to this report