Friday, 12 September 2014

New EU sanctions on Russia imminent

Ukraine crisis: New EU sanctions hit Russia on FridayA Ukrainian soldier at a checkpoint as the fragile truce appears to be holding
  • Foreign fighters on both sides
New EU sanctions against Russia will take effect on Friday, blocking loans for five big state banks and curbing EU business with oil and defence firms.

The aim is to keep pressure on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis. But the measures could be eased or lifted if a ceasefire in Ukraine holds.
Russia says it is preparing a response. One top Russian official said cars imported from the EU could be targeted.
Nato says Russia still has about 1,000 heavily armed troops in east Ukraine.
US President Barack Obama said his country would join the EU in imposing tougher sanctions on Russia, targeting the defence, finance and energy sectors. He said he would provide details on Friday.
The EU and US accuse the Kremlin of directly helping pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions by sending regular soldiers across the border, along with sophisticated weapons including tanks. Moscow denies the allegations.
Nato says Russia is still keeping about 20,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, besides those it says are inside Ukraine.
The separatists have recently made big gains in eastern Ukraine. The fighting has killed at least 3,000 people since April.
Blacklisted officials
The new EU sanctions will also add 24 more Russian officials and rebel leaders to a blacklist, subjecting them to visa bans and asset freezes.
“They comprise persons involved in actions against Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including the new leadership in Donbass, the government of Crimea as well as Russian decision-makers and oligarchs,” said a statement from the EU Council, the grouping of 28 member states’ governments.
“This brings the total of persons subject to sanctions to 119 while 23 [Russian] entities remain under asset freeze in the EU,” it said.
Russia has warned it may ban European planes flying over Russian territory
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich called the new sanctions “an absolutely unfriendly step”.
Andrei Belousov, an aide to President Vladimir Putin, told Russia’s Ria Novosti news agency that Russia might limit imports of cars and light industrial goods from the EU.
Russia already has a wide-ranging embargo on food imports from the EU, banning fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy produce and other important foods.
That year-long ban also applies to food from the US, Canada, Australia and Norway, which have imposed sanctions similar to the EU’s.
The rouble fell to a new low of 37.57 to the dollar on Thursday, after news about the EU sanctions broke. It also fell against the euro.
Dual-use goods targeted
The latest EU decision followed a conference call involving a number of European leaders, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
The member states struggled to agree on how to factor in the fragile truce between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels.
At urgent talks among 28 member states in Brussels on Wednesday, Germany pressed for the sanctions to put be into effect.
But other countries said they wanted to wait while the ceasefire continued to hold.
The measures will target Russian oil companies Rosneft and Transneft and the petroleum unit of state gas monopoly Gazprom.
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