After weeks of escalating tension in the Crimea region of Ukraine that have included numerous international travel warnings, lawmakers in Crimea voted in favor of leaving the country for Russia and putting it to a regional vote in 10 days, according to a CNN report.
Earlier in the day, the United States announced that it is imposing visa bans on some Russian officials and other people deemed responsible for, as the New York Times calls it, "actions that have undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."
As CNN explained, these sanctions could range from freezing assets and blocking property under U.S. jurisdiction to preventing American companies from doing business with any person or entity listed. Russia is the European Union's third-largest trading partner after the United States and China, and Germany relies heavily on Russian energy.
CNN also notes that the Obama administration has suspended preparations for the upcoming G8 summit of industrialized nations in Sochi, the site of the just-completed Winter Olympics.
The announcement came as the European Union was considering its own punitive measures and as Secretary of State John Kerry met for a second day with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, on ways to defuse the Ukraine crisis, which the story calls one of the most serious East-West confrontations since the Cold War.