Brussels: The EU has agreed to impose asset freezes and travel bans on business figures and entities closely associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin who have benefited from the Ukraine crisis, EU officials said.
The 28 member state ambassadors to the EU targeted "persons and entities supporting or benefiting from (the actions of) Russian decision-makers" in Ukraine, said one official yesterday, who asked not to be named.
The ambassadors also agreed to "target further entities responsible for action against Ukraine`s territorial integrity," the official said.
Trade and investment with Crimea, annexed by Russia in March, would be further restricted, the official added.
The EU officials declined to name those involved, saying they would be published tomorrow in the Official Journal of the European Union.
EU diplomats said separately that one name had been agreed and three others were under discussion, while perhaps three entities would figure on tomorrow`s list.
Previously, the EU has hit members of Putin`s political inner circle, including Deputy Premier Dmitry Rogozin, but this would be the first time they have targeted business figures close to the president.
On Saturday, the EU ambassadors hit 15 individuals and 18 entities - including Russia`s intelligence chiefs - with asset freezes and travel bans.
This brought the "Phase 2" sanctions list to 87 people and 20 entities, with the EU spurred into action by the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, blamed on pro-Moscow rebels using a Russian-made missile.
The ambassadors, who meet regularly, are due to meet again today to approve the next move, to "Phase 3" sanctions covering four key areas - access to capital markets, defence, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector.
Up to now, the EU has been reluctant to take this step because many member states, such as Italy and Germany, have major economic ties with Russia which they feared could be harmed by tougher sanctions.
But MH17 has forced a change in thinking in the face of a Moscow which has derided the sanctions so far as ineffective and counterproductive.
The new economic-sector measures to be agreed today will limit access to the long-term capital markets, making it more difficult for Russian state-owned banks to raise fresh funds and putting the faltering economy under even more pressure.