Sanctions imposed on political and military figures in Russia and Ukraine
Paschal Donohoe defends EU decision not to include Putin allies targeted by US over Crimea incursion
Ukrainians living in Belgium at a protest against Russia’s incursion into Crimea, outside the meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Francois Lenoir
The US and European Union yesterday stepped up their response to the Russian incursion into Ukraine, imposing targeted sanctions on named Russian individuals, including senior political and military figures.
European foreign ministers agreed to target 21 individuals, including 10 sitting politicians from Russia’s upper and lower houses of parliament, three military commanders, including the head of the Black Sea Fleet, and eight Ukrainian officials. The restrictions, which involve travel bans and asset freezes, became effective last night.
The EU, however, stopped short of including a number of top-level Putin allies who have been targeted by the US.
As the meeting wrapped up in Brussels, the White House announced that it was imposing restrictions on seven Russian and four Ukrainian individuals, including deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin and top Putin aides Vladislav Surkov and Sergei Glazyev.
But EU foreign ministers from a number of countries stressed that its list of targeted individuals may be expanded later this week when EU leaders gather in Brussels for a scheduled two-day summit.
A number of central European countries, including Poland, had pushed for the sanction list to be increased yesterday. A longer list of about 130 names, including senior figures associated with Russian companies, had been in circulation last week. It is expected that a number of those could face restrictions when EU leaders meet on Thursday.
Speaking after the meeting in Brussels, Minister for European Affairs Paschal Donohoe, who represented Ireland at the meeting, defended the decision to impose sanctions on only 21 individuals, pointing out that there was unanimous support for the measures.
“At another stage in the crisis there was a scepticism as to whether all member states of the EU would get to the point that they would agree a list of people, a list of measures,” he said. “That has happened today. This is a list that was agreed by everybody.”
He said it was important that diplomatic channels with Russia be pursued. However, the Irish Government viewed the referendum in Crimea as illegal, he added.
British foreign secretary William Hague stressed that the list of targeted individuals, though “an important statement of European unity and resolve” was “not set in stone”.
“We stand ready to build on these measures if it becomes necessary to do so,” he said, a view that was echoed by Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski.
Mr Hague added that a discussion on further implications of the recent developments in Russia on EU-Russia relations had been raised by ministers.
“We have started discussing the longer-term implications, the need to reduce European dependence on Russian energy . . . These will be the biggest cost to Russia,” he said.
The EU sanctions mean that those affected will not be able to access or move funds including deposits, shares or property held within the EU, while EU citizens and companies are prohibited from engaging in business with the individuals.
The named Russian and Ukrainian figures will also be denied entry to the EU at its external borders.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton declined to be drawn on what developments could prompt the EU to take further action, but called for a “de-escalation” of the crisis over the next few days.
Announcing the sanctions in the White House yesterday, US president Barack Obama said that America stood ready to impose new sanctions “if Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine”.
Baroness Ashton also rejected suggestions that the disparity between US and EU sanctions reflected disunity.
“I don’t believe that this is anything to do with a softer or harder approach. We’ve taken our decision based on the best information and work that we’ve done to establish what we believe is the right approach for the EU,” she said.