* EU imposes asset freezes and travel bans
* Sanctions fall on politicians, military and separatists
* EU steers clear of targeting those in energy sector
* Little enthusiasm among EU states for tougher sanctions
(Adds quotes, Russian reaction)
By John O'Donnell and Adrian Croft
BRUSSELS, April 29 The European Union broadened
sanctions on Russia on Tuesday, imposing asset freezes and visa
bans on 15 Russian officials or Ukrainian rebel leaders, but
many EU states are wary of going further and applying more
intense economic pressure on Russia.
The EU targeted a number of high-ranking Russian officials,
including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, and Russia's
senior general, Valery Gerasimov, and pro-Russian separatist
leaders in eastern Ukraine, but steered clear of sanctions on
The decision brings to 48 the number of people that the EU
has put under sanctions for actions it says have undermined
Ukraine's territorial integrity.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said developments
in eastern Ukraine ran counter to the agreement reached by
Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the EU in Geneva this
month aimed at defusing the crisis.
"I call on Russia to take now concrete action in support of
the Geneva accord," she said in a statement.
Russia suggested the European Union should be ashamed of
itself for "doing Washington's bidding" by punishing Moscow with
sanctions and the self-declared mayor of a
separatist-held town in eastern Ukraine said he would discuss
the release of detained military observers with the West only if
the EU dropped sanctions against rebel leaders.
Russia annexed the Crimea region after Ukraine's pro-Moscow
president was ousted in February by protesters demanding closer
links with Europe. Kiev and the West accuse Russia of stirring
up a separatist campaign in the east, a charge Moscow denies.
The EU's sanctions against Russia so far have been much
weaker than those of the United States, which imposed sanctions
on Monday on seven Russians, including Igor Sechin, head of oil
giant Rosneft, and 17 companies linked to Russian
President Vladimir Putin.
Washington will also deny export licences for
high-technology items that could help the Russian armed forces.
The EU has threatened to move to hard-hitting sanctions that
would target specific sectors of the Russian economy if the
Ukraine situation deteriorates, but it has been vague about what
would trigger tough sanctions and many EU governments are deeply
reluctant about going down that road.
The European Commission is completing work on economic
sanctions that the EU could impose, but for now the EU will
remain focused on less ambitious, targeted sanctions, EU
EU ambassadors meet again to discuss Ukraine on Wednesday
and will consider adding more names to the sanctions list,
diplomats said. They will also look at broadening the legal
basis of EU sanctions to permit the bloc to target companies,
not just individuals.
But EU states are not ready to move to broad, sectoral
sanctions, which would require a decision by EU leaders at a
summit meeting. "We are not there yet," one diplomat said.
The EU has more to lose than the United States does if
Russia retaliates against sanctions, sparking a possible trade
war. Russia provides about one third of the EU's gas imports and
is a major trading partner.
Sanctions require delicate burden sharing among EU states.
Germany has the most lucrative energy ties. France has a major
warship contract at stake while Britain serves as an offshore
financial centre to Russia's wealthy.
Diplomats say the EU is split into three camps over moving
to economic sanctions. Those pushing towards tougher sanctions
include Britain, France, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech
Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Those most reluctant are Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria,
Luxembourg, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Portugal and Malta.
EU heavyweight Germany is in an undecided middle camp.
One diplomat said the EU must be clear about what the goal
of tougher sanctions was and that they would help bring Russia
to the negotiating table over Ukraine. "We need to have a clear
picture of what the end is," he said.
(Additional reporting by Luke Baker, Barbara Lewis and Justyna
Pawlak; Editing by Giles Elgood)