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EU sanctions additional 15 Russian officials with travel ban, asset freeze over Ukraine crisis

BRUSSELS - The European Union added 15 more officials to its Russian sanctions list on Monday to protest Moscow's meddling in Ukraine.

The officials held responsible for "undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence" will be banned from travelling to the 28-nation bloc and will see their assets there frozen, the EU said in a statement.

The names of the individuals targeted weren't immediately released but would be included in the official publication of the move in the bloc's legal journal early Tuesday.

The decision taken by the EU governments' ambassadors in Brussels brings the total number of Russians or pro-Russian individuals in Ukraine targeted by the EU's sanctions to 48.

Two diplomats from EU countries said the ambassadors will meet again Wednesday and could add more names. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The initial sanctions were adopted following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula last month. The EU and the U.S. now also accuse Russia of destabilizing eastern Ukraine. NATO says Moscow has amassed some 40,000 troops just across the Ukrainian border and could invade the country within days if it wanted to.

The EU move comes after the U.S. decided to broaden its own sanctions to include seven Russian government officials and 17 companies with links to President Vladimir Putin.

The EU is Russia's biggest trading partner, giving it greater economic leverage over Moscow than the U.S. However, the EU treads more carefully in imposing sanctions since Russia is also one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers — and the bloc apparently shied away from following Washington's lead in targeting specific Russian companies.

EU leaders have threatened Russia with tougher economic sanctions, for example targeting its financial industry or the energy sector, if the situation in eastern Ukraine further escalates, but those sanctions are not yet being considered.

No "tripwire" has so far been set to trigger those measures, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told lawmakers in London.

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Raf Casert in Brussels and Jill Lawless in London contributed reporting.

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Follow Juergen Baetz on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jbaetz

The Canadian Press


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