EU readies sanctions against close Putin associates: sources
The EU was readying a fresh list of sanctions on Monday, sources said, to hit close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin deemed to have profited from Moscow's annexation of Crimea and intervention in Ukraine.
The 28 member state ambassadors to the European Union targeted early on Saturday another 15 individuals and 18 entities -- including Russia's intelligence chiefs - with 'Phase 2' asset freezes and travel bans for their role in the Ukraine crisis.
Now it is the turn of Putin's "cronies," the sources said.
The ambassadors "will definitely be looking at the expansion of the list ... that is the intention," one EU source said.
The sources did not say who would be on Monday's list.
Saturday's announcement brought the Phase 2 sanctions list to 87 people and 20 entities, with the EU stung into action by the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, blamed on pro-Moscow rebels using a Russian-made missile.
The member-state ambassadors are also due to meet on Tuesday to approve the next move, to Phase 3 sanctions covering four key areas -- access to capital markets, defence, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector.
Up to now, the EU has been reluctant to take this step because many member states, such as Italy and Germany, have major economic ties with Russia which they feared could be harmed by tougher sanctions.
But at the weekend, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the EU to move quickly so as to "send a necessary and clear message to Moscow," reflecting how the shooting down of MH17 with the loss of nearly 300 lives has changed thinking in the bloc.
The new, economic sector sanctions are meant to limit access to the long-term capital markets, making it more difficult for Russian companies to raise fresh funding and putting the economy under even more pressure.
Future arms sales would also be barred and in the technology sector, sanctions will apply to the oil sector but not gas, of which Russia supplies about a third of the EU's needs, so as to help protect the bloc's energy security.
© 2014 AFP