in eastern Ukraine. But those forces have not only balked at leaving those buildings, but have also stepped up their provocations, including capturing European military observers who were paraded by the militants before the media Sunday.
Despite the deteriorating situation, Obama said Russia still has the opportunity to resolve the Ukraine crisis through a diplomatic path. But he voiced pessimism about whether the new sanctions package would be enough to change Putin’s calculus.
“We don’t yet know whether it’s going to work,” he said.
European diplomats were set to meet in Brussels Monday to discuss slapping asset freezes and travel bans on more officials associated with Russia’s actions on Ukraine. The EU has so far sanctioned 33 individuals over the Crimea annexation.
The EU was likely to add another 15 individuals to its sanctions list at the meeting and discuss further steps.
, a diplomat from a major EU country said. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official decision had not yet been announced, declined to elaborate on which officials would be targeted.
Neither the U.S. nor Europe plans to announce broader sanctions on Russia’s key industries this week, though Obama said they were keeping those measures “in reserve” in case the situation worsens and Russia launches a full military incursion into eastern Ukraine. Among the targets of those so-called sector sanctions could be Russia’s banking, defense and energy industries.
Much of Obama’s outreach to European leaders in recent weeks has focused on building support for the sector sanctions. The EU is Russia’s biggest trading partner, giving it much greater economic leverage over Moscow than the U.S. has. However, the EU treads more carefully in imposing sanctions since Russia is also one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers.