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Austria Freezes Ukraine Accounts Before EU Specifies Sanctions

The Austrian bank accounts of 18 Ukrainian citizens will be frozen at the request of the new government in Kiev, Austria’s Foreign Ministry said.

The unilateral step is a “precautionary measure” as long as sanctions are still being debated at European Union level, the ministry in Vienna said in an e-mailed statement today, without identifying the individuals concerned. The move was agreed upon with the EU, the ministry said.

“The government is answering to a concrete request by the new Ukrainian government,” the ministry headed by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said. Austria said that “it cannot yet be assessed” when the EU will decide upon sanctions.

The EU is still drawing up sanctions against Ukraine that were agreed in principle by member governments on Feb. 20. The scope and precise details will depend on developments in Ukraine, a spokesman for the European Commission, the 28-nation EU’s executive arm, said this week.

The European Parliament yesterday called for an investigation into the embezzlement of Ukrainian state funds deposited in the EU by the family and “cronies” of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich.

The names of those subject to account freezes in Austria will be published tomorrow. Yanukovych, his son Oleksandr and former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov are among those targeted, Austrian newspaper Die Presse reported on its website today.

The Swiss government yesterday said it will order the country’s banks to freeze Yanukovich’s funds as the lenders “have a due diligence requirement” regarding Ukrainian money. It gave no indication whether the former president has any money deposited in the country.

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