The EU has agreed on new sanctions against Russia over its involvement in the war in Ukraine, but delayed enforcing them to leave time to assess whether the recent ceasefire is holding.
“Depending on the situation on the ground, the EU stands ready to review the agreed sanctions in whole or in part,” said Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, in a statement, after a last-minute meeting of ambassadors of EU member states in Brussels.
The sanctions, which target the ability of Russia’s top oil producers to raise capital in Europe, were originally due to take effect on Tuesday.
However, that was pushed back by a few days after some EU governments suggested that new sanctions be put on hold to give a chance to a shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
The delay came as some of the EU’s member states in eastern Europe, which are still dependent on Russian trade and energy ties, were uneasy with ratcheting up the sanctions, and as a tenuous Ukraine ceasefire appeared to be holding, the AFP news agency said.
However, after more than three hours of last-minute talks, a breakthrough was achieved.
Austria, Finland, Sweden, Cyprus and Slovakia were among countries wanting to give the ceasefire more time, according to EU diplomats talking to AFP and Reuters news agencies.
“A package of further restrictive measures against Russia has been adopted by the Council today [through written procedure], deepening the targeted measures of 31 July,” Van Rompuy said.
Sanctions imposed in July included Russian entities not to be able to raise debt on EU financial markets with a maturity of more than 90 days.
As is the practice with EU sanctions, the decision and exact content of the measures will only be revealed once they are published in the official journal, a process that can take several days.
“This will leave time for an assessment of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the peace plan,” Von Rompuy said.
European leaders ordered Brussels officials at a summit on August 30 to draw up new sanctions within a week in response to claims that Russian troops were backing rebels in eastern Ukraine.
‘Gazprom not targeted’
The proposed new EU sanctions put Russia’s top oil producers and pipeline operators, Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft, on a list of Russian state-owned firms that will not be allowed to raise capital or borrow on European markets, an EU diplomat told Reuters.
EU sanctions, however, do not include the gas sector and in particular state-owned Gazprom, the world’s biggest gas producer and the biggest gas supplier to Europe, the diplomat said, adding that a further 24 people would be added to a list of those barred from entry to the bloc and whose assets in the EU are frozen.
The list is expected to include new separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine, the government of Ukraine’s Crimea region annexed by Moscow, and Russian decision-makers and oligarchs.
Russia signalled on Monday it might ban Western airlines from flying over its territory as part of an “asymmetrical” response to new EU sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
Blaming the West for damaging the Russian economy by triggering “stupid” sanctions, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would press on with measures to reduce reliance on imports, starting with increasing output of domestic aircraft.