EU to expand Russia blacklist, ready for more measures over Ukraine
The EU agreed Thursday to add new names to a sanctions blacklist over Russia's involvement in Ukraine and will start work on possible further measures, foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.
An emergency foreign ministers' meeting called after an upsurge in violence in Ukraine also agreed to extend the blacklist of people hit with travel bans and asset freezes by six months from March until September, Mogherini told a press conference.
The European Union first adopted these sanctions in March 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea and from an initial 21 they now cover 132 individuals and 28 entities.
Mogherini told reporters the European Commission would draw up a list of new names within a week which would be discussed at another foreign ministers meeting on February 9, before being submitted for approval at an EU leaders' summit on February 12.
Prior to Thursday's talks there was intense speculation about whether ministers would recommend new and much tougher sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy.
The 28-nation bloc is sharply divided over the issue and only adopted the first such measures when stung into action by the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July.
A statement said ministers agreed that the EU should continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground in Ukraine.
In addition, they asked "that further preparatory work by the Commission services and the European External Action Service be undertaken on any appropriate action," it said.
Pressed whether that meant consideration of additional economic sector sanctions, Mogherini did not comment directly, saying: "It does include preparatory work for further measures and when we say 'any' it means 'any action.'"
Mogherini stressed too that any decision on economic sanctions would have to be taken by EU leaders, as they were last year.
"Any further sanctions, or lifting sanctions is always going to be based on the situation on the ground," she said.
"The situation on the ground is getting worse, this is negative news, so the assessment of the situation on the ground is a negative one; that is why we adopted the measures today."
EU leaders called Thursday's emergency meeting in response to intensified fighting between Ukraine troops and Russian-backed rebels, blamed for a weekend attack on the key port city of Mariupol which left 31 dead.
Some 5,100 people have now died in the conflict, with a September ceasefire and peace accord which Russia also signed in tatters.
© 2015 AFP