EU extends sanctions against Russian oligarchs

Some 87 Russian officials now subject to sanctions following annexation of the Crimea

People watch as a convoy of hearses arrives at the Korporaal van Oudheusdenkazerne in Hilversum. Photograph: EPA

People watch as a convoy of hearses arrives at the Korporaal van Oudheusdenkazerne in Hilversum. Photograph: EPA

Sat, Jul 26, 2014, 13:08

The European Union has extended sanctions against senior Russian officials in the wake of the shooting down of the Air Malaysia flight last week.

Two hundred and ninety-eight people died when the plane came down in Ukraine on July 17th, 10 of whom were British nationals.

EU member states agreed to add 15 individuals and 18 entities to the list of those subject to asset freezes earlier this week.

Among them are head of the Russian Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov, Sergei Beseda, head of the FSB department that oversees international operations and intelligence activity and four members of Russia’s Security Council.

The list, published in the EU’s Official Journal, brings to 87 the total number of people subject to sanctions in relation to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.

Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the Security Council is likely to endorse any agreement reached by the Netherlands and Australia with

Ukraine about sending their police to the site of the crash in eastern Ukraine.

He said it is “quite likely that the Security Council will want to take note of that agreement, very possibly in a resolution”.

After months of hesitation, the EU is set to go beyond asset freezes by imposing sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy.

The 28-nation EU toughened its stance towards Moscow following last week’s downing of a Malaysian airliner, killing 298 people, in an area of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists.

EU ambassadors reached a preliminary agreement last night.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy wrote to EU leaders asking them to authorise their ambassadors to complete an agreement by Tuesday. That would avoid the need for leaders to hold a special summit to approve the sanctions.

Mr Van Rompuy said the proposed sanctions package “strikes the right balance” in terms of costs and benefits to the EU and in its flexibility to ramp up sanctions or reverse them over time.

“It should have a strong impact on Russia’s economy while keeping a moderate effect on EU economies,” he wrote in the letter, seen by Reuters.

But Mr Van Rompuy said the sanctions on access to capital markets, arms and hi-tech goods were likely to apply only to future contracts, leaving France free to go ahead with the controversial delivery of Mistral helicopter carriers being built for Russia.

The narrowing of the proposed measures highlighted the difficulty of agreeing to tough sanctions among countries which have widely different economic interests and rely to varying degrees on Russian gas.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said late last night that following the ambassador’s discussions the commission had adopted a draft legal text for the Russia sanctions package.

“The final decision now lies with the EU’s member states, but I believe that this is an effective, well-targeted and balanced package providing the flexibility to adjust our reaction to changes on the ground. I hope that member states will agree on this package of restrictive measures next week,” he said in a statement.