EU may blacklist more separatists amid split on sanctions

European Union governments remain split over further sanctions on Russia, limiting any moves next week to asset freezes and travel bans on additional Ukrainian separatists, according to EU officials and a planning document.

EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said a Nov. 17 meeting of national ministers will consider the blacklisting, while putting off a discussion of tougher economic measures until next month’s summit of leaders.

“Member states are invited to offer their views on whether we should decide additional listings of separatists and make the appropriate tasking” to lower-level officials, Mogherini said in a letter to foreign ministers obtained by Bloomberg News. An “eventual discussion” of economic restrictions is for EU heads of government, she said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to meet with fellow leaders from the Group of 20 nations in Australia this weekend amid evidence that Russian tanks, artillery and troops are entering Ukraine. British Prime Minister David Cameron cited the prospect of a new Cold War in a speech in London on Nov. 10, saying the U.K. will “keep upping the pressure.”

Russia’s stepped-up support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine comes with EU states divided into three camps. Britain and Poland are leading the push for tighter curbs, with Hungary, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus in a group of opponents. Countries like Belgium, Ireland, Denmark and Austria are in the middle.

Sanctions require unanimity among the 28 governments, reducing the prospects of new decisions on Monday at the first foreign ministers’ meeting chaired by Mogherini. The ministers could set in motion a decision to expand the 119-name blacklist later next week, an EU official told reporters.

Even that proposal is in dispute. Some governments prefer no new list at all over a new list with only Ukrainian names, since that would play into Russia’s assertions that it isn’t involved in the infiltration of Ukraine, the official said.

Expanding the blacklist could backfire, Mogherini said. “The main separatist leaders are already listed” and “the targeted separatists could be at some point agents in the implementation of the peace plan,” she said in the letter.

Mogherini’s approach has been echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said on Nov. 11 that while the blacklist might be expanded, “further economic sanctions aren’t planned for the moment.” [Bloomberg]

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