EU set to add to Ukraine sanctions list

Pro-Russian rebels regroup and set up new barriers in Donetsk after losing Slovyansk

A pro-Russian fighter mans a checkpoint in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

A pro-Russian fighter mans a checkpoint in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

Tue, Jul 8, 2014, 01:01

European Union governments have agreed in principle to expand the list of people targeted with asset freezes and travel bans over the Ukraine crisis, diplomats said yesterday. The number and names of those to be added to the sanctions list will be decided at another meeting on Wednesday, an EU diplomat said after the bloc’s ambassadors discussed the situation in Ukraine.

So far, the EU has imposed limited measures, targeting 61 people in Russia and Ukraine with asset freezes and travel bans, as well as two energy companies in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, taken over by Moscow earlier this year. More people, rather than companies, are expected to be added to the list, the diplomat said. Another said the bulk of those would be separatists from eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, pro-Russian rebels erected new barricades on the streets of Donetsk yesterday, preparing to make a stand in the city after losing their bastion in the town of Slovyansk in the worst defeat of their three-month uprising.

Occasional bursts of gunfire could be heard in the distance from the centre of Donetsk, where residents said they were now living in fear of a potential battle between government forces and the separatist gunmen now out in force.

Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Ahmetov, pleaded with the government not to bomb his home city. Local authorities say thousands of residents have left Donetsk, but most have nowhere to go.

The Kiev government has said it will act quickly to seize back more territory from the rebels after re-taking Slovyansk over the weekend in what President Petro Poroshenko called a turning point in the conflict.

Rebels retreating from Slovyansk, some driving armoured vehicles flying Russian flags, drove 110km (65 miles) south into Donetsk over the weekend.

About 1,000 of them held a bellicose rally in the central square on Sunday, and yesterday many were visible on the streets, having established checkpoints to check the documents of drivers.

Their presence drew a warning from Donetsk’s local authorities. “There are men in camouflage and with weapons on the streets. We ask residents not to enter into arguments with these people and be extremely careful,” they said.

Although most shops and businesses were still open, some were shut, and residents spoke of their fear that government forces could soon attack.

The rebels’ commander, a Muscovite using the name Igor Strelkov, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying his men would fight for the city, which was “much easier to defend than little Slovyansk”.

– (Reuters)