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EXCLUSIVE-EU approves framework and wording for sanctions on Russia

Source: Reuters - Wed, 12 Mar 2014 11:38 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* EU agrees wording of sanctions measures against Russia

* Measures to be imposed if Moscow does not change course on Crimea

* Steps include travel bans and asset freezes

* Formal decision set to be taken by EU ministers on Monday

By Martin Santa and Luke Baker

BRUSSELS, March 12 (Reuters) - EU member states have agreed the wording of sanctions on Russia, including travel restrictions and asset freezes against those responsible for violating the sovereignty of Ukraine, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The seven-page document describes in detail the restrictive measures to be taken against Moscow if it does not reverse course in Crimea and begin talks with international mediators on efforts to resolve the crisis over Ukraine.

If approved by EU foreign ministers at a meeting on Monday, they would be the first sanctions imposed by the European Union against Russia since the end of the Cold War, marking a severe deterioration in East-West relations.

"Member states shall take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into, or transit through, their territories of the natural persons responsible for actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine," reads Article 1 of the document.

The second article covers assets held in the European Union and states that "all funds and economic resources belonging to, owned, held or controlled" by those responsible for actions which have undermined Ukraine's integrity "shall be frozen".

The document was approved by what is known as a silence procedure after no EU member states raised objections to the wording by 1100 GMT on Wednesday, officials said.

EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday and are expected to formally sign off on the restrictions, unless there is a dramatic change of course by Russia. That seems unlikely, with no indication of any 'de-escalation' in Crimea.

A referendum in Crimea on Sunday is expected to see the region vote in favour of secession from Ukraine to join Russia, adding weight to calls for an international response.

NAMES STILL NEEDED

While the EU has agreed the wording for its sanctions, it is still working on the names of those to be targeted.

Discussions took place in London on Tuesday, when officials from Britain, the United States, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan and elsewhere met to discuss the issue.

"My understanding is that there was detailed discussion of names at the meeting," an EU official said. "No definitive list has been drawn up, but it will be ready by Monday."

European officials have indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will not be on the list, so that channels of communication can be kept open and further escalation is possible at a later date.

Instead the list - an annex to the sanctions document seen by Reuters - is expected to focus on targets close to Putin in the security services and military establishment as well as on prominent members of the Russian parliament.

"The annex shall also contain, where available, the information necessary to identify the natural or legal persons, entities or bodies concerned," reads the sanctions framework.

"With regard to legal persons and entities, such information may include names, place and date of registration, registration number and place of business."

The EU and United States are coordinating on imposing the restrictions and have encouraged other countries, including Canada, Japan, Turkey and Switzerland, to take similar measures to maximize the impact.

If Russia does not respond to the pressure, the EU has said it is prepared to take further steps, probably involving an arms embargo and other trade-related measures. It could also apply sanctions on Putin himself.

The crisis began after Russia moved troops into Crimea in late February and effectively seized the peninsula after the popular overthrow of former president Viktor Yanukovich, an ally of Moscow who is now in exile in Russia. (Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak, Adrian Croft in Brussels and Guy Faulconbridge in London; Writing by Luke Baker)

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