* Vienna acts at request of new Ukrainian government
* Calls step precautionary measure while EU debates
* Does not name targets or say how much wealth seized
VIENNA, Feb 28 Austria will freeze the bank
accounts of 18 Ukrainians following a request from Ukraine's
foreign ministry and pending possible European Union sanctions,
the foreign ministry said on Friday.
"Austria has decided to freeze possible bank accounts and
assets of 18 Ukrainian citizens in Austria. This has been done
on the basis of an official request by the Ukrainian foreign
ministry," the ministry said.
It called the move "a temporary precautionary measure until
EU restrictive measures enter into force".
After Ukraine suffered its bloodiest day since the Soviet
era last week, the 28-nation EU agreed in principle to impose
sanctions such as visa bans and asset freezes on unnamed senior
Austria said it would freeze accounts via a central bank
decree under its foreign currency law. It did not identify the
people affected or say how much wealth was seized.
"The decree from the National Bank provides the appropriate
legal basis to be able to determine which assets are actually in
Austria and to prevent potential abuse," Foreign Minister
Sebastian Kurz told the Austria Press Agency.
The EU cannot unilaterally tell banks to freeze assets
without a legal decision agreed among all member states.
Ukraine's acting prosecutor general said on Wednesday the
country will ask international organisations to help trace bank
accounts and assets controlled by ousted President Viktor
Yanukovich and his allies.
Austria's FMA markets watchdog has already warned banks to
be vigilant about dealing with customers from Ukraine.