EU to blacklist eight Russians over Azov Sea stand-off: sources

FILE PHOTO: Russian jet fighters fly over a bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula with a cargo ship beneath it after three Ukrainian navy vessels were stopped by Russia from entering the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait in the Black Sea, Crimea November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will blacklist eight more Russians over a stand-off with Ukraine in the Azov Sea, diplomatic sources said on Friday.

EU foreign ministers will discuss on Monday further EU support for Ukraine, especially the south-eastern regions most affected by the conflict. Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Kiev in 2014 and backed separatist rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk industrial regions.

Last November, the Russian navy captured 24 Ukrainian sailors and their vessels in the Kerch Strait, which links the Black and Azov seas. Moscow has not heeded EU calls to release them.

The bloc’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed in Brussels on Friday “the issue of restrictive measures as a consequence of the incidents in the Azov Sea,” a senior EU official said, indicating the EU was coordinating with Washington.

Two diplomatic sources told Reuters the EU would add the names of eight more Russians directly involved in the incident to its list of people and entities subject to EU travel bans and asset freezes for their role in the turmoil in Ukraine.

The formal decision should come through in the coming weeks, they said, shortly before Ukraine is due to hold presidential elections on March 31.

Despite EU and U.S. sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, Moscow has vowed to never give Crimea back and sporadic fighting is still taking place in the east, where more than 10,000 have been killed since 2014.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Larry King