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White House Announces New Visa Restrictions Aimed at Russia

Protesters set up burning barricades at Independence square in Kiev on February 19, 2014. Protesters braced on February 19 for a fresh assault by riot police in central Kiev after a day of clashes left at least 25 people dead in the worst violence since the start of Ukraine's three-month political crisis. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

The White House continues to weigh its options in responding to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, announcing Thursday morning that it will impose new visa restrictions on Russians and Crimeans who the U.S. government believes are, "threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

Sanctions will also be used as a tool to defend the democratic process in the embattled Eastern European nation, the White House said.

Foreigners living in Ukraine carry their national flags during mass rally in Kiev called 'Ukraine and Crimea are together' on March 2, 2014. ( YURIY DYACHYSHYN AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

"As President Obama has made clear, the United States is pursuing and reviewing a wide range of options in response to Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – actions that constitute a threat to peace and security and a breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and that are inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act," read a White House press release.

The State Department will place restrictions on individuals and officials who pose a threat to Ukraine's "sovereignty." Visas were already being denied to individuals involved in human rights abuses in Ukraine, adding to the steps that have already been taken in response to Russia's involvement in the region.

President Barack Obama has also signed an executive order that will place sanctions against "individuals and entities" that undermine democracy in Ukraine.

Protesters set up burning barricades at Independence square in Kiev on February 19, 2014. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House described the order as "a flexible tool that will allow us to sanction those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea, and does not preclude further steps should the situation deteriorate."

Depending on what happens next, the U.S. government said it is "prepared to consider additional steps and sanctions as necessary."

This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.

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