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* EU adds two Crimean firms, 13 people to sanctions list
* Commander of Russian paratroops, separatist leaders also
* EU expands criteria for sanctions to include companies
By Adrian Croft and Justyna Pawlak
BRUSSELS, May 12 The European Union imposed
sanctions on Monday on a top aide to Russian President Vladimir
Putin and the commander of Russian paratroopers as well as two
confiscated Crimean energy companies, raising pressure on Moscow
over its actions in Ukraine.
Putin's first deputy chief of staff, Vyacheslav Volodin, and
Vladimir Shamanov, the commander of Russian airborne troops that
took part in Russia's occupation of Ukraine's Crimea region in
March, were among 13 people added to the EU's sanctions list.
Volodin, a wealthy former lawyer and veteran political
strategist, is already on the U.S. sanctions list.
The latest additions bring to 61 the number of Russians and
Ukrainians the EU has targeted with asset freezes and visa bans.
For the first time, the EU's latest sanctions list included
two companies after EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to
broaden the scope of sanctions, making it easier to freeze the
assets of companies involved in the Ukraine crisis.
The companies are a Crimea-based gas company,
Chernomorneftegaz, and a Crimean oil supply company, Feodosia.
The EU said both companies had been effectively confiscated
by the new authorities in Crimea following the Russian takeover.
The United States had already imposed sanctions on
Chernomorneftegaz on April 11, effectively putting it off limits
to Russia's state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, which was
expected to bid for a stake in the company.
U.S. officials said at the time that Washington's move aimed
to make it impossible for Gazprom to have dealings
For now, EU sanctions are limited to firms or other
organisations linked to Russia's annexation of Crimea, and the
EU will not target high-profile firms such as Gazprom.
Also on the EU's new list of people facing asset freezes and
visa bans were several pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern
Ukraine, including Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the rebel mayor of
Slaviansk who said earlier on Monday his eastern region needed
Russian troops to provide stability.
Also included were Roman Lyagin, head of the electoral
commission in Donetsk region, and Alexander Malykhin, head of a
local election committee in Luhansk. Both were involved in
organising self-rule referendums in their areas on Sunday that
the EU has called illegal.
For a factbox on the new sanctions click.
Russia criticised the EU for expanding sanctions over the
Ukraine crisis and urged it to respect self-rule votes in two
eastern Ukrainian provinces.
"By continuing its faulty, anti-Russian sanctions logic, the
European Union undermines trust in itself as a partner and casts
doubt on its claim to an objective role in supporting a
resolution of Ukraine's internal conflict," the Foreign Ministry
said in a statement.
Even after the latest additions, the EU sanctions are less
far-reaching than those imposed by the United States.
The EU's reticence to go further and impose tough economic
sanctions on Russia over its support for separatist groups in
Ukraine reflects concerns among many of its member states about
trade and industrial ties and heavy reliance on Russian energy.
Underscoring such concerns, diplomatic sources said France
planned to press ahead with a 1.2 billion euro ($1.66 billion)
contract to sell Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia because
scrapping it would do more damage to France than to Russia.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday did,
however, discuss possible triggers for tougher sanctions, with
big EU powers Germany, France and Britain all suggesting that
Russia must be punished if it undermined Ukraine's presidential
election on May 25.
A joint statement after the meeting said the EU would "pay
particular attention to all parties' attitude and behaviour
towards the holding of free and fair presidential elections when
deciding about possible future measures".
The ministers also held talks with Didier Burkhalter, head
of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who
has drawn up a peace plan for Ukraine.
Several ministers denounced the independence referendums
held in parts of eastern Ukraine on Sunday as illegal.
"These do not have credibility or international acceptance
or recognition. I think the votes in the Eurovision song contest
really were more credible," British Foreign Secretary William
Hague told reporters.
Despite Hague's joke, the separatist region of Donetsk
appealed to Moscow on Monday to consider its absorption into the
The EU ministers said they backed "a swift convening" of
another ministerial meeting between Ukraine, Russia, the United
States and EU to ensure an April agreement aimed at defusing the
Ukraine crisis was fully implemented.
Ministers also asked EU officials to draw up plans for a
possible EU mission to advise Ukraine on rebuilding its police
and legal system. Britain, Poland and Sweden have proposed
sending hundreds of judicial and police advisers to Ukraine.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he
would travel to Kiev on Tuesday and possibly to eastern and
southern Ukraine to try to convince people there that building
bridges between different sides was the only solution.
"We have to be prepared for what to do if someone prevents
the elections on May 25. It that is going to happen ... then we
have to think about further sanctions," he said.
But Austria's Sebastian Kurz opposed tougher sanctions.
"We should not yearn for economic sanctions as they would
not only hit Russia but also definitely hit us ... If we went a
step further with our sanctions with every provocation, we would
already have war," he said.
Some EU governments fear that trade sanctions against Russia
could undermine their own economies, just recovering from the
financial crisis, and provoke Russian retaliation. Among those
most reluctant to intensify sanctions are Italy, Greece, Cyprus,
Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Spain.
(Additional reporting by Tom Koerkemeier and Alexander Winning;
Editing by Giles Elgood and Eric Walsh)