European Union governments ramped up sanctions against Russia, saying they’re ready to target oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin over their involvement in unrest in Ukraine.
EU leaders, who met in Brussels yesterday, accused Putin of failing to meet demands to end the flow of weapons and militants across the border, and agreed to blacklist Russian companies and halt lending for investment projects in Russia. The EU move came as the U.S. yesterday imposed sanctions on large Russian banks, energy companies and defense firms.
“The situation in the Ukraine is unacceptable,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said. “The territorial integrity of that country is not being properly respected by Russia.”
The EU’s decision to impose its broadest sanctions yet, while stopping short of sweeping economic penalties, reflects a compromise between eastern European governments that have pushed for more punitive measures and western and southern nations that have urged a more diplomatic approach to Putin’s involvement in the rebellion in Ukraine.
EU leaders agreed to consider sanctions on “individuals or entities who actively provide material or financial support to the Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilization of eastern Ukraine.” The EU didn’t identify any individuals or companies at the summit and set a deadline of the end of this month for coming up with a list.
“Sanctions that are already late in coming, such as halting shipments of arms, technology and so on, haven’t been implemented, but we must do so, because if Putin’s aggressive policy isn’t checked, he’ll go further,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said.
The EU will also halt lending for new public-sector projects in Russia by the European Investment Bank, the bloc’s in-house lender. Financing has normally amounted to 300 million to 500 million euros ($405 million-$676 million), the EIB said.
The bloc will also use its influence to stop new lending by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and leaders said they wanted “additional measures” to restrict commerce with Crimea.
The latest sanctions build on travel bans and asset freezes on 72 people accused of destabilizing Ukraine and engineering Crimea’s annexation that the EU has imposed since March. It has also already blacklisted two companies.
There’s an urgent need to “agree on a genuine and sustainable cease-fire by all parties,” the leaders said in a joint statement.
Russia hasn’t acknowledged any direct support for the rebels, whom Ukrainian forces are trying to encircle and defeat in its eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Eleven Ukrainian soldiers have died in fighting since Tuesday, Defense Ministry spokesman Andriy Lysenko said. One person was killed and nine were wounded in a battle in Luhansk, an eastern city of about 450,000 people, the municipal council said on its website.
Lysenko said the fiercest fighting yesterday between Ukrainian forces and the pro-Russian insurgents was taking place in the cities of Amvrosiyivka and Marynivka and near the border checkpoint Izvaryno. He said rebels also attacked government troops in the village of Grygorivka yesterday before being repelled.