The White House announced Thursday morning that the U.S. was imposing new visa restrictions on pro-Russian opponents of the new Ukraine government in Kiev. Political analysts say this step clears the way for further financial sanctions as Western nations begin implementing sanctions penalizing Russia for its military occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

The visa restrictions are aimed at an unspecified number of people and organizations that the White House claims are threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial borders. A senior Obama administration official who requested anonymity said the visa denials mainly target Russians and Ukrainians in Crimea, and will be imposed immediately. The travel restrictions were announced as Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Rome to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

U.S. call on Russia

According to the statement, the soon-to-be-announced financial sanctions will penalize “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. At the same time, as the president has said, we seek to work with all parties to achieve a diplomatic solution that de-escalates the situation and restores Ukraine’s sovereignty,”

The statement continued to say, “We call on Russia to take the opportunity before it to resolve this crisis through direct and immediate dialogue with the Government of Ukraine.”

Ukraine unrest

Ukraine has been suffering through public unrest for almost three months now, following ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s turning down an EU offer of aid and looking eastward to Russia. Matters came to a head in late February with Ukrainian citizens storming public buildings and Yanukovych fleeing to pro-Russian eastern areas of Ukraine.

A few days later, the Russian military moved in to take over all military installations in Crimea and in effect take over the region. The Ukrainian government and Western government have objected loudly, but until now not taken any actual steps to punish Russia for its aggressive actions.

In a recent development, the Crimean parliament took action toward separating from Ukraine today. The local legislative body set up a referendum vote on whether the region should become part of Russia for March 16th.