BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union governments reached a preliminary agreement on Monday to impose asset freezes and visa bans on 15 more people as part of expanded sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, diplomats said.
An EU procedure to approve the sanctions does not end until 5 p.m. (1500 GMT/4.00 p.m. BST) but that is seen as a formality, EU diplomats said. The names of those to be added to the list will not be made public until they are published in the EU’s Official Journal on Tuesday.
The EU decision coincided with a White House announcement that the United States was imposing sanctions against seven Russians, including Igor Sechin, head of Russia’s major oil company Rosneft, and 17 companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The United States has been much more aggressive in the penalties it has imposed on Russia than has the 28-nation European Union, which depends heavily on Russia for energy.
The EU has previously imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 33 Russians and Crimeans for their part in Russia’s seizure of Crimea.
The EU’s European Commission is drawing up a list of tougher economic sanctions that could be imposed on Russia, but the EU is split between countries in favour of stronger action, including Britain, France, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic and the Baltic countries, and those who are reluctant, such as Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Austria, Spain, Portugal and Malta.
Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Justyna Pawlak and Sonya Hepinstall