i_qMm7g3op3E (1)The U.S. and European Union will impose new sanctions as early as today on Russian companies and individuals close to President Vladimir Putin over the escalating crisis in Ukraine, officials said. “We will be looking to designate people who are in his inner circle, who have a significant impact on the Russian economy,” Deputy White House National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program yesterday. “We’ll be looking to designate companies that they and other inner-circle people control. We’ll be looking at taking steps as well with regard to high-technology exports to their defense industry. All of this together is going to have an impact.” The seizure of international inspectors by pro-Russian separatists last week added pressure to a confrontation made urgent by Russian military exercises on Ukraine’s frontiers. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization says 40,000 Russian troops are near the border. Ukraine’s southern air-defense forces are in “operational readiness,” the country’s defense ministry said yesterday on its website. More