Europe

EU to expand legal basis for sanctions: Sources

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European Union governments have reached a preliminary agreement to expand the legal criteria for targeting people and companies with sanctions, a move aimed at pressuring Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, sources say.

Diplomats said the preliminary agreement was reached on Wednesday, paving the way for new sanction listings in the near future.

The decision would reportedly make it easier for the 28-member bloc to target Russian companies.

The agreement must formally be approved during a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers on May 13.

“We have political approval, and it will have to be rubber-stamped,” said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

This is while two other unnamed diplomats said senior EU officials were to discuss specific names of potential targets later on Wednesday.

The European Union has imposed a number of sanctions against Russian and pro-Russian figures over the current crisis in Ukraine.

The latest round took place on April 29, when the bloc decided to add 15 more individuals to its sanctions list.

The EU expansion of sanctions coincided with a White House announcement that the United States was imposing its third round of sanctions, targeting seven senior Russian officials and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle.”

Earlier in April, the EU’s 28 top diplomats agreed to expand sanctions against Moscow over its alleged role in Ukraine’s recent developments.

The initial set of sanctions came after Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and formally applied to become part of the Russian Federation following a referendum on March 16.

On the following day, EU foreign ministers imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 13 Russian nationals and 8 people from Crimea after a meeting in Brussels.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, however, has denounced the bans and urged the EU to stop trying to intimidate Moscow, and make an effort to find a solution to the unrest in Ukraine.

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