EU Adds Sanctions on Separatists in Ukraine as Clashes Flare

The European Union stepped up sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine, adding 13 persons and five entities it said were involved in actions against the nation’s territorial integrity as fighting shook rebel-held areas.

The people include officials in the breakaway republics of Luhansk and Donetsk and those linked to organizing Nov. 2 local elections denounced as illegitimate by Ukraine and its allies, the EU said in the Official Journal. They will be subject to an asset freeze and an EU travel ban, according to a statement.

“In view of the continued gravity of the situation on the ground in Ukraine, the council considers that additional persons and entities should be added to the list of natural and legal persons, entities and bodies subject to restrictive measures,” the bloc said.

The EU is continuing to resort to sanctions after a cease-fire negotiated on Sept. 5 in Minsk failed to defuse Ukraine’s bloodiest conflict since the Second World War. European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel have signaled that sanctions will stay as long as Russia does little to resolve the crisis.

Alexander Kofman, the runner-up in an election staged by the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, told RIA Novosti he had no assets in the EU and won’t be affected by the latest steps, which he said showed the 28-member bloc wasn’t interested in “normalizing” the situation.

Rebel Elections

The rebel-held ballots this month have deepened a rift between Russia and governments from Washington to Berlin. While Russia said it “respected” the results, the elections were condemned by Ukraine, prompting President Petro Poroshenko to move to revoke a law giving more autonomy to separatist areas. Merkel urged the EU to consider expanding the list of Russian-linked individuals under sanctions to punish those responsible for the votes.

Ukraine and its allies blame Russia for stoking the months-long unrest, where more than 4,300 people have been killed and more than 10,000 wounded during fighting between the separatists and government troops. The confrontation is the worst between Russia and its former Cold War adversaries since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The government in Moscow denies involvement. It may stop retaliatory measures against Europe should the EU cancel its sanctions against Russia, Interfax reported today, citing an interview with Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov.

Minsk Agreements

“Ukraine continues to base its policy toward eastern Ukraine on the Minsk agreements,” Volodymyr Polevyi, a spokesman for the military in Kiev, said today. “The problem is that the Minsk agreements are being adhered to unilaterally by Ukraine, while rebels and Russian mercenaries ignore them.”

Fighting in the conflict zone continued unabated. One civilian died after rebels shelled areas in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk more than a dozen times, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in a statement today. Militants also attacked government troops, prompting them to return fire, it said. One Ukrainian soldier was killed and 11 wounded during the past day, according to Polevyi.

“An escalation of military activities has aggravated the security situation in the region, and led to increased uncertainty and fear among the population,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report on its website.

Humanitarian Toll

The humanitarian crisis is worsening as the government in Kiev moved to cut off funding to rebel-held regions, the UN said. That will “deepen the vulnerability of those populations most in need of assistance,” it said.

Polevyi, Ukraine’s military spokesman, countered by saying today that rebels continue to refuse humanitarian help from Kiev.

The Donetsk People’s Republic is tomorrow awaiting the arrival of Russian humanitarian assistance, which is being delivered by a convoy of trucks ferrying food and construction materials, according to a statement.

The cargo, which consists of more than 1,200 metric tons of materials carried by more than 100 vehicles, is prepared for shipment, RIA Novosti reported, citing an official at Russia’s Emergencies Ministry.

Ukraine has expressed concern that the Russian relief missions may be a guise for funneling weapons to insurgents. The shipments weren’t inspected by the Red Cross or Ukrainian customs officials before entering the country from Russia.

Separatist authorities in Donetsk also said they’ll pay pensions to local residents starting Dec. 1 after Ukraine halted payments. A rebel leader in the region, Alexander Zakharchenko, signed into law a decree to put local energy, gas and coal companies under government control.

“The humanitarian situation remains very tense,” the Donetsk republic said on its website. “It may especially intensify if Ukraine blocks borders along a buffer line and closes access to all goods from its side.”

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