BRUSSELS: The European Union agreed for the first time yesterday to impose broad sanctions against Russian oil companies, banks and defence firms, by far the strongest international action yet over Moscow’s support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Later yesterday, the United States expanded it sanctions. President Barack Obama said the new sanctions targeted “key sectors of the Russian economy” — energy, arms and finance.
The measures mark the start of a new phase in the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
Diplomats said ambassadors from the 28-member European bloc agreed to restrictions on trade of equipment for the oil and defence sectors, and “dual use” technology with both defence and civilian purposes. Russia’s state-run banks would be barred from raising funds in European capital markets. The measures would be reviewed in three months.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had been reluctant to step up sanctions before the crash because of her country’s trade links with Russia, said the latest EU measures were “unavoidable”.
Previously Europe had imposed sanctions only on individuals and organisations accused of direct involvement in threatening Ukraine.