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EU to adopt on Friday new Russia sanctions, legal tweaks to avert food shortages - sources

BRUSSELS, July 15 (Reuters) - The European Commission is set to adopt on Friday its seventh package of sanctions against Russia, which will add a ban to the import of Russian gold and tweak existing restrictive measures to avoid hampering food exports, said two officials who declined to be named.

The new measures are considered to be “a maintenance and alignment package,” one of the sources said, referring to it as a “sixth-and-a-half” set of sanctions for its limited scope compared with previous rounds that hit Russian oil or coal.

However, some measures could have a serious impact on the affected sectors.

The draft package, which needs approval from EU governments, includes a ban on the import of Russian gold into the EU, which would be applicable from the adoption of the new sanctions, as firstly reported by Reuters before the G7 agreed on the measure in June.

One source said the measure would also hit imports of Russian gold through third countries but did not elaborate on how it would work.

Brussels will also tighten existing measures, with new limitations on the imports of goods that could be used for military purposes, including chemicals and machinery, the source said.

New people and entities seen to be close to the Kremlin will also be added to the EU blacklist that requires freezing of their assets and travel bans, three officials who declined to be named said.

The Commission will also make some changes to existing sanctions to make sure that they do not hit food and grain exports from Russia, the three EU officials said.

African countries have said EU sanctions contributed to the ongoing food crisis, chiefly caused by the war in Ukraine and the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports from where cereals are usually exported to the world.

The EU has long denied that its sanctions affected food trade. Tweaks to existing restrictive measures are meant to make sure that rules are not misinterpreted by traders, one official said, noting a ban on access of Russian ships to EU ports will be tweaked to avoid confusion.

Under that measure, Russian ships are already allowed to enter EU ports if they carry food or medicines.

But some traders have effectively banned trade of food when exported from Russian ports which are indirectly owned by Russian state-owned companies that have been sanctioned by the EU. The tweak will clarify that these ports are exempted from sanctions, the source said.

EU envoys are expected to discuss the new package next week for final adoption before the summer break. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; additional reporting by John Chalmers; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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