By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States plans to sanction Sberbank, Russia's largest bank, and to further limit other Russian banks' access to U.S. capital to punish Moscow for intervening in Ukraine, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
The sanctions are the latest by the United States and the European Union following Russia's annexation of Crimea in March and what the West sees as an effort since to further destabilize Ukraine by backing pro-Russian separatists with troops and arms.
Washington and European Union plan to impose new sanctions on Russia's defense, energy and financial sectors on Friday despite a fragile truce in eastern Ukraine and what Ukraine's president has described as the withdrawal of most of Russia's forces.
The U.S. sanctions appeared designed to keep up pressure on Russia, which denies sending troops into eastern Ukraine despite what Kiev and its Western backers say is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Moscow also denies arming the separatists.
In July, the United States effectively cut off five Russian financial groups - VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Bank of Moscow ., VEB and Russian Agriculture Bank - from U.S. equity and debt markets by barring U.S. persons from "transacting in, providing financing for, or otherwise dealing in new debt of longer than 90 days maturity or new equity."
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. government planned on Friday to apply the same essential sanction to Sberbank and to tighten the restriction for all six banks by barring U.S. persons from dealing in their new debt with a maturity of more than 30 days.
In sanctioning the five Russian financial services firms in July, the U.S. Treasury stressed that it had "not blocked the property or interests in property of these banks, nor prohibited transactions with them beyond these specific restrictions."
(Additional reporting by Megan Davies in New York and Ekaterina Golubkova and Oksana Kobzeva in Moscow; Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bill Trott)