EU Sanctions Said to Avoid Russian Business to Focus on Politics

European Union governments are set to sidestep Russian business and focus sanctions on individuals with a political involvement in the seizure of Crimea, said an EU official with knowledge of the preparations.

Scores of Russians will probably be included on the list that’s due to be discussed by EU foreign ministers in Brussels on March 17, according to the official, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private. The focus will be on politically significant individuals and not on the business community in Russia, the official told reporters yesterday.

Germany’s Bild newspaper reported yesterday that the EU and U.S. planned to impose sanctions on Russians including Alexey Miller, the chief executive officer of Russian gas-export monopoly OAO Gazprom, and Igor Sechin, who heads OAO Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer. Bild cited sources in Washington and Brussels it didn’t name.

“This list has not yet been adopted to date so I cannot confirm actual names,” European Commission foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijanic told reporters in Brussels yesterday.

EU governments are poised to impose asset freezes and visa bans on people and “entities” involved in Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s southern Crimea region. While limited, the measures will be significant and are intended to send a signal to those individuals in Crimea and in Russia who are involved in action member states consider illegal, the official said.

The EU has had just over a week to draw up the list, following a March 6 emergency summit of the 28-nation bloc’s leaders. The legal preparations have to be watertight to make sure the penalties survive potential court challenges, another official told reporters separately yesterday.

‘Far-Reaching Consequences’

Depending on Russia’s response to the initial measures, EU leaders due to meet in Brussels on March 20-21 will consider the “additional and far reaching consequences” that were floated at the emergency summit, the second official said.

Further sanctions beyond asset freezes and travel bans will be discussed by the foreign ministers, said the first official. There is no agreement between governments yet on what these measures will constitute nor how they would be triggered, according to the official.

“All the detailed preparation that needs to be done is being done,” U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, told reporters in London yesterday. The foreign ministers’ meeting “is being very thoroughly prepared” and will be “very important,” Gray said.

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