EU inches closer to imposing new sanctions on Russia

The EU is stepping efforts to impose further sanctions on Russia with travel bans and asset freezes on allies of President Vladimir Putin possible in March, news wires reported citing diplomats close to the matter. The EU ambassadors on Wednesday gave punitive measures go ahead for further refining.

The meeting showed broad support for sanctions, with countries such as Sweden, Germany, France and Poland all calling for the travel bans and asset freezes. “I expect additional sanctions to be in place before the EU summit in March,” said a senior EU diplomat cited by Reuters, referring to the EU March summit in Brussels.

The new sanctions to be imposed in response to the jailing of Putin’s main domestic critic Alexei Navalny, could be the first to be imposed under a new EU framework that was enacted in December and allows the bloc to take measures against human rights violators worldwide. “Sanctions need to be soon, otherwise their impact is weakened,” a second senior EU diplomat said.

At the meeting, however, there was no discussion of halting the Nord Stream II gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany, despite calls from some EU members for it to be targeted with sanctions. It was not immediately clear if Russian oligarchs would be targeted, as Navalny’s supporters want.

Pressure for sanctions has grown since Moscow infuriated European countries on 5 February by expelling German, Polish and Swedish diplomats without telling the EU’s foreign policy chief, who was in Moscow for a visit. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the EU an “unreliable partner” during a news conference, which EU lawmakers say aimed to humiliate Brussels.

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