In the aftermath of the tragic crash of the Malaysian airliner in Eastern Ukraine, the European Union decided on Friday (18 July) that it would take further steps to impose tougher sanctions on Russia due to its involvement in the Crimean crisis and it will do that by agreeing the legal basis for widening its list of targets. The leaders of 28 member states acquiesced to additional restrictive measures including castigating Russian companies. The decision to widen punitive sanctions against Moscow came after Kremlin said it would not halt its reported support of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The Russian foreign ministry accused Brussels of not having its “own voice” and only submitting to “blackmail from the American administration”. The sanctions target the Russian economy, financial sector, energy sector, and military whereby the latter is widely seen as contributing to the intensification of the ongoing conflict on the Crimean peninsula. The punitive measures hit individuals and firms that back up separatists’ efforts to impair the sovereignty of Ukraine including those entities and individuals who are held responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilization of eastern Ukraine.
After the Friday meeting, the EU leadership confirmed that they had agreed on the legal basis for further escalation of sanctions that should materialize by the end of this month. Brussels has so far targeted 72 Russian and Ukrainian entities and individuals with asset freezes and travel bans. Yet, divisions between the member states remain over how far the EU should go in restricting EU-Russia economic ties. Brussels is under constant pressure by Washington, which demands that the EU does much more. The US has already targeted Russia’s major banks including Gazprombank, energy firms including Rosneft, and defence companies. The EU promised that it would specify what sanctions it would opt for this time adding that it had already asked the European Investment Bank to stop financing Russian projects.