* Foreign ministers to take final decision on Monday
* EU expands scope of its sanctions to include companies
* Many EU states reluctant to back trade sanctions
(Adds details, background)
By Adrian Croft
BRUSSELS, May 9 European Union ambassadors have
agreed in principle to add about 15 people and several
Crimean-based companies to the bloc's list of sanctions against
Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, EU
diplomats said on Friday.
The EU has so far imposed asset freezes and visa bans on 48
Russians and Ukrainians over Moscow's annexation of Crimea but
it will be the first time the 28-nation bloc has targeted
The new list will include two Crimean firms active in the
energy sector, one EU diplomat said. Other diplomats said four
or five Crimean companies or organisations would be targeted.
The final decision on extra sanctions will only be taken by
EU foreign ministers on Monday, taking account of developments
over the weekend when pro-Russian separatists plan to hold an
independence referendum in eastern Ukraine, the diplomats said.
European Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski told Polish
broadcaster TVN 24 BiS on Friday he expected the EU on Monday to
strengthen sanctions against individuals and entities linked to
Russia's intervention in Ukraine.
The names of the people and companies set to be added to the
sanctions list are kept secret until publication but they are
unlikely to include any well-known Russian companies such as
energy giant Gazprom.
The companies set to be added to the list on Monday are
Crimean branches of Ukrainian companies that have been taken
over by Russians, one EU diplomat said.
EU diplomats reached a preliminary agreement this week to
expand the legal criteria for imposing sanctions on Russia, with
the goal of making it easier to freeze the assets of companies
involved in the Ukraine crisis.
The new rules say the EU could target entities in Crimea
"whose ownership has been transferred contrary to Ukrainian law,
or legal persons, entities or bodies which have benefited from
such a transfer", according to a text quoted by EU diplomats.
Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday are expected
to endorse that agreement and then adopt the additions to the
sanctions list that reflect the new criteria by including some
There have been violent clashes in eastern Ukraine, parts of
which have been taken over by pro-Russian separatists.
Yet despite the turmoil, the EU is not yet prepared to move
to hard-hitting trade or financial sanctions on Russia, of the
kind its leaders threatened in March to impose if Moscow took
further steps to destabilise the situation.
Many EU governments fear that tough sanctions could lead to
Russian retaliation and damage their own economies. They are
also wary of antagonizing a major supplier of energy to the EU.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft, Justyna Pawlak, Martin Santa;
editing by John O'Donnell and Giles Elgood)