EU Sanctions Target Putin's Inner Circle Including Military Chiefs Over Ukraine
The EU blacklisted 23 individuals it said were involved in military aggression against Ukraine.
The EU on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu and military chiefs as part of a package of measures over the Kremlin's recognition of two separatist Ukrainian regions as independent.
The 27-nation bloc slapped asset freezes and visa bans on high-ranking figures including the commanders of Russia's army, navy and air force, the Kremlin's chief of staff, the head of state-run television channel RT and the foreign ministry's spokeswoman, according to the EU's official journal.
The move was part of a wave of Western punishment after Russian President Vladimir Putin again sought to rewrite Ukraine's borders by recognising the two Moscow-backed regions.
The EU blacklisted 23 individuals it said were involved in military aggression against Ukraine, taking key political decisions, or waging a "disinformation war".
It also imposed sanctions on over 300 lawmakers in Russia's state Duma who voted for Putin to recognise the territories.
The notorious Internet Research Agency, accused of spearheading an online disinformation campaign, was hit, along with three prominent banks VEB, Rossiya and Promsvyazbank.
Among those added to the blacklist was businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Putin's and alleged founder of the mercenary group Wagner that is accused of sending fighters to Ukraine and other hotspots.
Prigozhin, purported to be behind the Internet Research agency, was already sanctioned by the EU over Wagner's involvement in Libya. His wife and mother were put under sanctions.
Those targeted for spreading government "propaganda" included RT's Margarita Simonyan, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova and pro-Kremlin broadcasters Vladimir Solovyev and Pyotr Tolstoy.
The heads of the state-owned VEB and VTB banks were also on the list.
The EU in addition took a broader swipe at Russia's economy by moving to limit the access for Moscow's sovereign debt to European financial markets.
It also imposed an import ban on goods coming to the bloc from the separatist Donetsk and Lugansk territories.
The EU has said the sanctions are just the first part of a package of "unprecedented" measures it has prepared against Russia and that it is holding the rest back in case the Kremlin launches a full-scale attack on Ukraine.
The United States on Tuesday also targeted Russia's sovereign debt and hit banks VEB and Promsvyazbank in its first round of sanctions.