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NATO-RUSSIA TENSIONS

EU agrees new sanctions targeting Russian lawmakers and 'oligarchs'

The EU's punitive measures target the 351 lawmakers who voted in favour of Moscow's recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent republics

HANDOUT - 21 February 2022, Belgium, Brussels: Josep Borrell (R), EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (L) arrive to attend the EU Foreign Ministers meeting. Photo: Mario Salerno/European Council/dpa - ATTENTION: editorial use only and only if the credit mentioned above is referenced in full.
Josep Borrell (R), EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (L). Photo: Mario Salerno/EU Council.

The European Union has unanimously agreed new Russia sanctions after Moscow's decision to recognize the independence of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made the announcement in Paris on Tuesday after foreign ministers convened in the French capital to discuss the worsening Ukraine crisis.

The sanctions package "will hurt Russia and it will hurt a lot," the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin dramatically escalated tensions with the West on Monday by recognizing the independence of Ukraine's pro-Russia breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk following a unanimous vote in the Duma legislature.

The EU's punitive measures target the 351 lawmakers who voted in favour of the recognition plus 27 individuals and entities who threaten Ukrainian territory and sovereignty, Borrell said.

These include key figures in business, media and politics, "the oligarchs, in plain language," Borrell added, while confirming that Putin himself was not on the sanctions list.

The sanctions package is to enter into force as early as Wednesday, according to France, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

The French Presidency announced on Tuesday evening that the necessary technical and legal checks would be carried out overnight. Formal adoption and publication in the official journal of the EU is planned for Wednesday.

In parallel with the sanctions, the top EU diplomat said that diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis would continue, noting that the "story has not finished."

Meeting with Lavrov cancelled

Le Drian said the bloc's firm stance "leaves the door open to diplomacy" but added that a planned meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for Friday would no longer take place.

The sanctions announced on Tuesday are separate to a much bigger package that the EU has repeatedly threatened Russia with throughout the crisis. The bloc has refrained from making the package public.

"There are also sanctions in our reserve too," Le Drian said, "If ever Russia decides it wants to go further."

Le Drian said some EU member states had pushed the bloc to go further but concessions were necessary to reach an agreement. EU member states must reach unanimity to adopt sanctions.

The Baltic states - closest geographically to Russia - have struck a stronger stance on sanctions than more cautious member states.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the EU foreign ministers' agreement in a video statement, saying the bloc would now quickly finalize the package.

Restrictions to raise finance

Individuals and companies involved in threatening Ukrainian territory are directly targeted in the sanctions, von der Leyen said. Banks that finance the Russian military are also in the sanction's cross hairs, she added.

Restrictions are also to be placed on the Russian government's ability to raise finance in the EU's capital markets.

The sanctions also ban trade between the bloc and the breakaway regions in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region, in a reaction similar to the EU's response to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, she said.

"We will make it as difficult as possible for the Kremlin to pursue its aggressive policies," von der Leyen said.

Both Borrell and von der Leyen praised Germany's decision to withhold certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on Tuesday as complimentary to the sanctions package.

Von der Leyen said she thought Berlin's decision was "absolutely right."

"This crisis shows that Europe is still too dependent on Russian gas," the EU executive branch chief said.

EU agrees new sanctions targeting Russian lawmakers and 'oligarchs'
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