* Separatist Borodai describes himself as a political
* EU seeking to pressure rebels to accept Ukraine's
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS, July 12 The European Union targeted
Ukrainian separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai and 10 other
rebels with travel bans and asset freezes on Saturday, avoiding
fresh sanctions on Russian business to avoid antagonising its
main energy supplier.
EU governments widened their blacklist to try to end the
violence that has rocked Ukraine since late last year, when a
decision by the then president to reject an EU trade deal
sparked fatal protests and forced him to flee the country.
The European Union said Borodai was "responsible for the
separatist 'governmental' activities of the so-called
'government of the Donetsk People's Republic'," referring to the
city where the military is fighting pro-Russian separatists.
Borodai, a 41-year-old Russian citizen, told a news
conference in May that he was a political advisor who helped
Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea in March
and then moved to eastern Ukraine to help separatists there.
He denies any links to Moscow.
Others on the EU list include Alexander Khodakovsky, a
defector from the Ukrainian state security service who now
commands rebels, and Nikolay Kozitsyn, identified by the EU as
another rebel commander.
Kiev denounces them as terrorists and accuses Russia of
supporting the rebellion in the east, where hundreds of people
have died in the clashes between rebels and the military.
When the sanctions were announced last week, Russia
condemned them and said it would damage ties with Europe.
The EU's trade chief, Karel De Gucht, held talks with
Russian and Ukrainian officials in Brussels on Friday and sought
to reassure Moscow it was not seeking to hurt the Russian
economy. But EU officials rejected calls to delay the free-trade
and political cooperation accord that the EU finally signed with
Ukraine last month.
The list takes the number of people under EU sanctions to
72, as well as two energy companies in Crimea, taken over by
Moscow earlier this year.
EU leaders warned at a June 27 summit that the bloc could
impose more sanctions on Moscow unless pro-Russian rebels wound
down the crisis in the east of the country.
They demanded that Ukrainian rebels agree to ceasefire
verification arrangements, return border checkpoints to Kiev
authorities, free hostages and launch serious talks on
implementing President Petro Poroshenko's peace plan.
The EU has hesitated about imposing hard-hitting trade
sanctions against Russia because of fears among some countries
such as Germany about antagonizing their major energy supplier.
Poroshenko called off a patchy ceasefire to resume an
offensive against pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine scrambled jet fighters to strike at rebel positions
early on Saturday, after separatists resumed missile attacks on
government forces near the frontier with Russia, the border
guard service said.
In a night of violence in several areas of eastern Ukraine
following a missile strike by separatists on Friday that killed
at least 23 government servicemen, Ukrainian forces also used
artillery to respond to rebel fire, the military said.
Poroshenko had pledged to "find and destroy" the pro-Russian
rebels responsible for the missile attack at Zelenopillya, which
also injured nearly 100.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Lynne O'Donnell)