Pointing to Russia's "continued aggression in Ukraine," the United States, Canada and the European Union (EU) are punishing Russia with new sanctions. The sanctions also affect more than a dozen Russian officials and businesses firms.

The decision takes the number of people blacklisted by the partners over the crisis in Ukraine that began in March 2014 to 170 persons and 44 entities.

Six Russian officials, six defense firms and two energy and construction firms were specifically targeted by the sanctions. They were sanctioned over Russia's seizure of Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait in February, or for their activities in Russian-annexed Crimea or separatist eastern Ukraine, said the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The U.S. also imposed sanctions on two Ukrainian separatists: Aleksey Naydenko and Vladimir Vysotsky. Both men were involved in organizing the sham November 2018 elections in breakaway eastern Ukraine, which Russia has turned into a Russian enclave.

The American sanctions freeze all property and interests in property belonging to the designated individuals and entities. It also prohibits U.S. persons from transacting with them.

Four of the individuals are border guard or coastguard officials. These men were singled out for their role in a November 25, 2018, naval confrontation where Russian ships fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait linking the Black and Azov Seas near Crimea.

"The United States and our transatlantic partners will not allow Russia's continued aggression against Ukraine to go unchecked," said U.S. treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin.

"This joint initiative with our partners in the European Union and Canada reinforces our shared commitment to impose targeted and meaningful sanctions in response to the Kremlin's attempts to disregard international norms and undermine Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Canada imposed sanctions on 114 people and 15 entities to punish Russia's military action in seizing the Ukrainian ships.

"Canada and its allies are unwavering in our support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia's provocations in the Kerch Strait and its illegal invasion and ongoing occupation of Crimea will not go unchecked," said Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland.

The EU sanctioned eight more Russians over the incident. It said its sanctions affected senior security service officials and military commanders accused of preventing Ukrainian ships from reaching port.

The US, Canada, and the EU over the weekend again demanded Russia release the detained Ukrainian crew

"We call upon Russia to immediately return to Ukraine the seized vessels and arrested crew members, and keep the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov open to ships transiting to and from Ukrainian ports," said Robert Palladino, a spokesman for the US State Department.