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EU working 'swiftly' on tougher Russia sanctions

The EU is making swift progress on adopting much tougher economic sector sanctions against Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis, officials said on Friday (25 July) .

BRUSSELS: The European Union (EU) is making swift progress on adopting much tougher economic sector sanctions against Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis, officials said on Friday (25 July).

After discussions on broadening the sanctions from the current mix of asset freezes and travel bans, the legal instruments required to give effect to the new punitive measures will be taken up Tuesday, they said.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, "will swiftly table the necessary legislative proposals in all areas identified" by member states earlier this week, a statement said.

"There is an agreement in principle on the package of economic sanctions," an EU diplomatic source said, adding that "a couple of details still have to be discussed" on Tuesday.

The EU has been reluctant to adopt the tougher economic sector measures backed by Washington but the alleged shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine with a Russian-made missile has forced a clear change in thinking, although divisions clearly remain.

Citing the MH17 disaster and continued Russian support for the rebels, EU foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday that the Commission and the bloc's external affairs arm should finalise work on tougher measures targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy.

They should "present proposals for taking action, including on access to capital markets, defence, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector," a statement from the EU foreign ministers said.

Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso confirmed late Friday that the Commission had "adopted legislative proposals on these measures".

"The final decision is now up to the EU member states," he said in a statement.

The proposed package was efficient, well targeted and balanced, as well as flexible enough so that the EU's reaction could be adapted to possible future changes on the ground.

Barroso called on Russia to take all necessary steps to stop the violence and commit itself to talks on a peace plan.

He also expressed confidence that the 28 member states will agree on the package next week.

Implementing such broader measures will need approval by EU leaders from all 28 members, and a Commission spokeswoman said this was unlikely before Tuesday, when the legislative proposals will be tabled.

At a summit last week, just before MH17 was shot down, EU leaders had agreed to extend the current sanctions list because Moscow had failed to reverse course in Ukraine.

EU sources said on Thursday (24 July) that 15 Ukrainian and Russian individuals and 18 entities -- companies and local authorities set up by the rebels -- would be added to the current list of 72 names hit with visa bans and asset freezes.

The Commission confirmed the figures in another statement Friday but the actual names will only be made available later in the day.

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