February 5, 2015 / 10:15 AM / 5 years ago

EU agrees low-key new Russian sanctions list: diplomats

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union governments have agreed on a list of new entities and Russian and pro-Moscow Ukrainian individuals who will suffer sanctions in the bloc, diplomats said on Thursday.

Of the 19 individuals, including five Russians, and nine entities, of which one is Russian, none were very senior or prominent, EU diplomats said. The names were not immediately available. Foreign ministers will meet on Monday in Brussels to endorse the list, which adds to measures taken last year.

Reservations on the part of the new Greek government had been lifted during negotiations among envoys of the 28 member states, diplomats said. Greek officials declined comment.

EU leaders have been struggling to maintain a common front against Moscow after imposing rounds of sanctions last year that have hurt limping EU economies and worried those EU governments which would prefer a more conciliatory approach to Russia.

Some hawkish states, notably in the former Soviet bloc, had pushed for the likes of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to be on the new list, which follows a round of travel bans and asset freezes on individuals following the annexation of Crimea in March and the downing of a Malaysian airliner in July.

But diplomats said the sanctions to be approved on Monday would not hit Shoigu or other high-profile figures.

“These are all second- and third-rank names,” one said.

Measures against companies include restricting their access to finance in the European Union and to trade and technology.

The latest EU move was prompted by a surge in fighting in eastern Ukraine in the past two weeks and follows a period when the focus of some leaders had appeared to be shifting toward scaling back sanctions in return for Russian cooperation.

Moscow denies direct involvement in the conflict despite NATO’s assertions its troops are supporting the rebels.

Greece emerged last week as a new potential obstacle to tougher measures following the election of left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. However, Athens did in the end back an extension of earlier sanctions and its new foreign minister told his colleagues: “I am not a Russian puppet.”

European Union leaders will meet next Thursday at a summit in Brussels where they could ask the EU executive to draw up further possible measures against Russia. Diplomats have said that a tightening of restrictions on major Russian companies’ access to finance could be considered.

However, internal divisions could limit the EU’s ability to do more. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council who will chair next week’s summit, urged Greek premier Tsipras when they met on Wednesday to follow the common line.

Additional reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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