March 14, 2014 / 4:34 PM / 4 years ago

EU working from list of 120-130 names for Russia sanctions

BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Union has drawn up a list of 120-130 Russians who could be hit with travel bans and asset freezes for their actions over Crimea, European diplomats said on Friday, but the final register of names will only be decided on Sunday.

The five-page list, including senior figures in Russia’s military and political establishment, was drawn up with the assistance of EU diplomats with experience in Moscow, officials told Reuters. It is now being reviewed in Brussels.

EU ambassadors met to discuss the names on Friday, as they prepare for a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday. A formal decision to impose sanctions on Russia over in Crimea will be taken on Monday unless Moscow rapidly changes course.

Ambassadors will meet again on Sunday - when the results of a referendum on Crimea’s secession from Ukraine are likely to be coming in - to finalize the list, which may be whittled down substantially from the current number of names.

“There are generals and others from Russia’s top echelons on the list, including people close to Putin,” said one European diplomat who has a copy of the five-page document.

German tabloid newspaper Bild earlier reported that the CEOs of Russia’s two biggest companies - Gazprom’s Alexei Miller and Igor Sechin of Rosneft - would be on the final list, but European diplomats dismissed the report.

“It’s not yet agreed,” said a diplomat involved in the negotiations. “(Business interests) is not the target initially, the focus is on the political decision that has been taken to act in Crimea and destabilize Ukraine.”

The official said he expected the final list of those to be sanctioned to be between “tens and scores” of people.

Other diplomats described the debate among the EU’s 28 member states as focusing in part on whether to be preventative in applying sanctions, by including as many people as possible from the start, or else taking a more incremental approach.

Expectations are that a step-by-step application of measures is more likely to gain backing from all member states, allowing pressure to be steadily ratcheted up if Moscow does not respond.

An east European diplomat set out a scenario in which the EU might decide to impose sanctions on one set of people on Monday, and then take further steps on Wednesday and then on Thursday-Friday, when EU leaders will be in Brussels for a summit.

“It could start by sanctioning those directly involved with the situation in Crimea. Then if Russia doesn’t respond, expand to include senior figures in the Russian Senate, and then ultimately expand to include very senior people,” they said.

The EU decided to move ahead with sanctions against Russia last week, setting out a three-stage process.

The first stage, involving calling off talks with Moscow on visa cooperation and a new investment pact, was implemented immediately. The second stage, involving travel bans and asset freezes, is the one set to be agreed on Monday.

If after that Russia still does not respond, the EU has said it will move to more far-reaching financial sanctions, which could include an arms embargo, trade restrictions and targeted measures against Russian business and finance.

“We would think it likely the business community will be concerned about phase three sanctions,” said one official, indicating that companies would be named only at that stage.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, Luke Baker, Adrian Croft, Alexei Anishchuk and Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Peter Graff and Luke Baker; Editing by Giles Elgood

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