23rd Oct 2016

EU ambassadors to expand Russia blacklist

  • The new round of sanctions will enter into force when it is published in the bloc's Official Journal later on Monday or early Tuesday (Photo: Council of European Union)

EU countries’ ambassadors meeting in Brussels on Monday (28 April) are to add names to the Russia blacklist in reaction to events in Ukraine.

The move, which is being co-ordinated with the US, but also with Canada and Japan under the auspices of the G7 club of wealthy nations, was announced on Friday.

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The G7 statement said, referring to an earlier agreement with Moscow in Geneva, that “Russia has taken no concrete actions in support of the Geneva accord … Instead, it has continued to escalate tensions by increasingly concerning rhetoric and ongoing threatening military manoeuvres on Ukraine's border.”

The atmosphere deteriorated further on Sunday when pro-Russia separatists in Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine, paraded a group of eight captured monitors from the OSCE, a multilateral club based in Vienna, in front of TV cameras.

A separatist leader accused the men - from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Poland and Sweden - of being Nato spies and of using their mission to smuggle in Ukrainian intelligence officers.

“We have not been touched … [But] we have no indication when we will be sent home to our countries and to see our families,” the mission’s leader, German military officer Axel Schneider, said.

The separatists later released a Swedish member of the team who suffers from diabetes. Russia’s envoy to the OSCE, Andre Kelin, also pledged to work for the release of the remainder of the team.

But the gestures did little to appease anger in the EU, which, like the US, believes the pro-Russian paramilitaries take orders from Moscow.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement the same day “the public parading of the OSCE observers and Ukrainian security forces as prisoners is revolting and blatantly hurts the dignity of the victims.” He added: “Russia has an obligation to act on the separatists.”

The EU has already imposed visa bans and asset freezes on 33 Russians and Crimeans over the Ukraine crisis.

Reuters reports, citing diplomatic sources, that Monday’s move will see 15 names added to the group. One of its contacts told the press agency: “You will find a European list much more connected to actions on the ground, and an American list more focused on cronies and entities.”

The White House deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken, also told the CBS network over the weekend the US aims to designate Russian firms linked to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and to the Russian arms industry.

“We will be looking to designate people who are in his inner circle, who have a significant impact on the Russian economy. We'll be looking to designate companies that they and other inner-circle people control … We'll be looking at taking steps, as well, with regard to high-technology exports to their defense industry. All of this together is going to have an impact,” he said.

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