BRUSSELS—The European Union is set to add nine people to its Russia sanctions blacklist, in response to the organization of highly disputed elections in Eastern Ukraine, sources say.
Foreign ministers from the 28 EU countries are expected to announce the latest measures when they meet in Brussels on Dec. 10 after a call for action from Kiev, diplomatic sources told The Epoch Times, on condition of anonymity.
The move, which will boost the number of people censured by the bloc over the war in Ukraine to 164, comes in response to “sham” elections held in the separatist region of Donbass last month.
Moscow has been accused by Ukraine and the West of fomenting the fighting that has ravaged the eastern part of Ukraine, where there is a significant ethnic Russian population, since the conflict intensified in March 2014.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced the elections, held in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas on Nov. 11, saying they were “illegal and represent yet another example of Russian subversive activity.”
He had appealed directly to European leaders to issue sanctions, which usually include travel bans and asset freezes, on all of the key officials responsible for organizing the contests.
A senior European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that nine people of Ukrainian and Russian nationality will be added to the sanctions list at the Dec. 10 meeting. The diplomat said that more names could be added later, adding: “It’s not the end of the story. We can always come back to the issue and sanction some more.”
Russia has defended the holding of the elections, with the Kremlin blaming Kiev for the “deplorable situation” in the east of the country by failing to fulfill the Minsk agreements designed to halt a war that has killed more than 10,000 people.
Separately, sources say EU countries are also currently working on adding five Russian nationals to a brand new chemical weapons sanctions list over their alleged involvement in the Salisbury poisoning in the UK, where Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poised with the nerve agent Novichok.
At the meeting on Dec. 10, European foreign ministers are also set to discuss ongoing tensions between Moscow and Kiev in the Sea of Azov, which were sparked when Russian vessels fired on three Ukrainian warships late last month.
NATO has accused Moscow of using aggressive tactics to try and “expand its influence and control” in the vital waters, which lie between the Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia and connect directly to the Black Sea.
Poroshenko has called for the alliance to deploy warships to the area and set up a blockade to keep Russian ships out, but diplomats think the idea is unlikely to gain traction in Europe.
However, Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, has warned actions will need to be taken with the chaos in the Azov Sea starting to affect European commercial interests.
“The activities in the Azov Sea slow down enormously the vessels that are also carrying European Union member states’ flags so we are suffering an impact on our own economies,” Mogherini said at a press conference.
However, the bloc is reportedly divided over who is ultimately to blame for the incident, with some countries more sympathetic to Moscow, suggesting Ukraine acted provocatively by sending its ships into the sea.
“There are countries that would be reluctant to do anything that’s seen as too tough on Russia. It’s clear the Russians have behaved badly and wrongly and I don’t think anyone disputes that,” a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said.
Russia has rejected international calls to release 24 Ukrainian crewmen taken prisoner during the initial confrontation on Nov. 25 and has instead transferred them to Moscow where they have been charged with attempting to illegally cross Russia’s border.