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Ukrainian lauds Russia sanctions

But fight against rebels won’t yield to crash probe, he says

By ANDREW ROTH and NEIL MacFARQUHAR The New York Times

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 5:06 a.m.

paul-picard-second-from-right-acting-chief-observer-for-the-organization-for-security-and-cooperation-in-europe-talks-to-other-members-of-the-organization-wednesday-while-visiting-a-checkpoint-at-the-russian-ukrainian-border-in-the-town-of-gukovo-russia

Paul Picard (second from right), acting chief observer for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, talks to other members of the organization Wednesday while visiting a checkpoint at the Russian-Ukrainian border in the town of Gukovo, Russia.

KIEV, Ukraine -- A senior Ukrainian official said Wednesday that he welcomed the expanded sanctions against Russia that were announced this week by Western nations, while Russian officials belittled them, saying they would only make Russia economically stronger.

The Ukrainian authorities also said they would not scale back their military offensive against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, even as fighting impeded the Dutch police and other international experts from reaching the crash site of a Malaysian airliner for a fourth-straight day.

Valeriy Chaly, the deputy chief of Ukraine's presidential administration, said in a briefing with journalists Wednesday that Ukraine was seeking a peaceful solution that would allow international experts to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was downed over southeastern Ukraine on July 17. But he added that Kiev's offensive against the rebels would continue during the investigation.

"Rebels sometimes try to use international investigation to stop this," Chaly said, referring to the Ukrainian offensive.

Earlier Wednesday, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe failed to reach the crash site after their route was blocked by reports of fighting and gunfire. As a result, a mission of Dutch police officers and experts also said it would not travel to the site Wednesday.

In a statement, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, the head of a Dutch recovery mission, said it would "continue to try to reach the crash in the coming days, but it remains questionable whether the situation will become safer."

The team has not been able to reach the site of the downed plane since arriving Sunday in Donetsk.

"We will nonetheless continue tirelessly in our efforts to achieve our goal: to bring back the victims and their personal belongings," he said.

The Ukrainian army in recent weeks has taken 60 cities and towns, with a total population of more than 1 million, from under rebel control, Chaly said.

"The investigation does not mean that will be stopped," he said.

He denied, however, that Ukraine had imminent plans to take the crash site by force.

"We are not ready for such a scenario without the agreement of our international partners," Chaly said. "Our partners have pushed us to find another solution."

Chaly also said that Ukraine "welcomes" the expansion of sanctions against Russia that were announced Tuesday by Europe and the United States.

"What even a month or a month and a half ago was considered impossible has become a reality," Chaly said. "We hope by joint action of the international community we will be able to convince our neighbor to stop the aggression against us."

The coordinated sanctions go beyond targeting Russia's banking and defense industries, as they have in the past, and would inhibit Moscow's access to Western technology as it tries to tap oil reserves.

Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister in charge of Russia's defense industry, suggested the United States had imposed the sanctions out of fear of Russia's growing might. He used Twitter to call the measures "a sign that Russian military shipbuilding is becoming a problem for the enemies of Russia."

Sergey Ryabuhin, head of the budget committee in the upper house of Russia's parliament, described the sanctions as pointless and said they would only serve to make Russian manufacturing stronger.

"For the past 23 years," he told the state-run news agency RIA Novosti, referring to the time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, "the United States and the European Union have conditioned our liberal economists to the fact that we should not engage in high-tech manufacturing, we only need to buy."

VTB, one of the newly sanctioned banks, which is more than 60 percent owned by the government and among Russia's largest, issued a statement saying that restricting its access to the European credit market would "not affect the bank's work nor its credit rating."

The company said it met the sanctions with "regret" but called them a political decision and not reflective of anything the bank had done.

"We consider this decision purely politically motivated, unjust, contradictory to the law and reciprocally harmful for the economy," it said.

But some opposition voices said the Russian economy would have to pay the price for what they called President Vladimir Putin's misguided policy in destabilizing Ukraine.

"I was asked whether sanctions will stop Putin?" Boris Nemtsov, a deputy prime minister under former President Boris Yeltsin and now an opposition politician, wrote on his Facebook page.

"My answer is no, they won't," he wrote. "Only the Russian people can stop him when they ultimately understand that the crazy man cornered and impoverished them. But it won't happen right away. The withdrawal sickness and hangover will be long and painful."

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