EU slaps sanctions on top Russia officials, banks, trade

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union agreed Saturday to impose new sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine targeting more officials and organizations accused of supporting the war, spreading propaganda or supplying drones, as well as restricting trade on products that could be used by the armed forces.

The EU’s Swedish presidency said the sanctions “are directed at military and political decision-makers, companies supporting or working within the Russian military industry, and commanders in the Wagner Group. Transactions with some of Russia’s largest banks are also prohibited.”

Asset freezes were slapped on three more Russian banks and seven Iranian “entities” — companies, agencies, political parties or other organizations — that manufacture military drones, which the EU suspects have been used by Russia during the war.

The new measures, proposed by the EU’s executive branch three weeks ago, were only adopted after much internal wrangling over their exact make-up, and made public one day after the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — the intended target date.

The delay, which was minor but symbolically important, is yet more evidence of how difficult it has become for the 27-nation bloc to identify new targets for restrictive measures that are acceptable to all member nations.

The sanctions are meant to undermine Russia’s economy and drain funds for its war effort, but they are also increasingly inflicting pain on European economies already hit by high inflation and energy prices and still suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before this latest round of measures, the EU had already targeted almost 1,400 Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, government ministers, lawmakers and oligarchs believed loyal to the Kremlin, but also officers believed responsible for war crimes or targeting civilian infrastructure.

The bloc had also frozen the assets of more than 170 organizations, ranging from political parties and paramilitary groups to banks, private companies and media outlets accused of spreading pro-Kremlin propaganda.

Russia’s energy sector was hit, too — notably oil and coal — and the bloc, through its own measures and political decisions combined with retaliation from Moscow, was rapidly weaned off its dependence on Russian natural gas.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the new package in his nightly address on Saturday.

“Sanctions will continue to be introduced so that nothing remains of the potential of Russian aggression,” he said.

“There are new sanctions steps in the 10th package, powerful ones, against the defense industry and the financial sector of the terrorist state and against the propagandists who drowned Russian society in lies and are trying to spread their lies onto the whole world,” Zelenskyy said.

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