The UK government, in coordination with the European Union, has sanctioned 178 individuals linked to pro-Russian separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine.
The UK Foreign Office said the new sanctions are intended to target “those who prop up Russian-backed illegal breakaway regions of Ukraine.”
This comes after a missile attack on a packed railway station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk on April 8, which killed 50 people and wounded many more.
The Russian government has rejected Ukrainian accusations that its forces had been deliberately targeting civilians.
But the UK Foreign Office said on April 13 that “there is mounting evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, including accounts of sexual violence.”
Commenting on the new sanctions, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “In the wake of horrific rocket attacks on civilians in Eastern Ukraine, we are today sanctioning those who prop up the illegal breakaway regions and are complicit in atrocities against the Ukrainian people. We will continue to target all those who aid and abet Putin’s war.”
The UK will ban the import of Russian iron and steel and the export of quantum technologies and advanced materials to Russia on April 14, she added.
“We will not rest in our mission to stop Putin’s war machine in its tracks,” she said.
Those sanctioned include Sergei Kozlov, the self-styled chairman of the government of the breakaway Luhansk People’s Republic.
Also added to the sanctions list was Alexander Ananchenko, who the Foreign Office named as the self-professed prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.
Russia has refocused its military efforts in recent weeks as Russian President Vladimir Putin looks, according to Western intelligence, to mount an offensive on the Donbass region following a failed attack on Kyiv.
Putin reiterated on April 12 that Russia is demanding Ukraine recognise Crimea as Russian and the so-called republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent.
“Fighting in Eastern Ukraine will intensify in the next two to three weeks as Russia continues to refocus its efforts there,” the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in its intelligence update on April 12.
Those targeted by the new sanctions also include six family members and close associates of Russian oligarchs, including Pavel Ezubov, cousin of Oleg Deripaska, and Nigina Zairova, the executive assistant to Mikhail Fridman.
Maria Lavrova, the wife of Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, is among those subject to a travel ban and asset freeze.
PA Media contributed to this report.