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EU sanctions some of Russia's biggest banks, limits capital market access for 5 lenders

BRUSSELS - The European Union on Thursday revealed the details of its broad economic sanctions against Russia, including the names of five major banks which will see their access to the 28-nation bloc's capital market curtailed.

The banks, in which the Russian state holds a majority stake, include the country's largest lender, Sberbank. The others are Gazprombank, VEB, VTB bank and Rosselkhozbank, also known as the Russian Agricultural Bank.

The latest sanctions were announced Tuesday but the names of the targeted firms and other details were only released Thursday. The package of punitive measures also includes an arms embargo and the prohibition to export some oil exploration technology used for deep water drilling, Arctic oil exploration and production, or shale oil projects. Finally, the sanctions also forbid the export of so-called dual use goods, which can be used for military and civilian purposes, whenever they are destined to Russia's military.

The EU is Russia's biggest trading partner.

The sanctions with the most immediate effect are those targeting the banks because they make it harder for Russia's already ailing economy to get access to finance and further spook international investors who fear running afoul of the sanctions regime. The United States also imposed similar sanctions on Russian banks.

The EU beefed up its sanctions against Russia over what it decries as Moscow's meddling in Ukraine after the downing of a Malaysia Airline passenger jet earlier this month over eastern Ukraine, which killed all 298 people aboard. The U.S. and Ukraine say the Boeing 777 was shot down by a missile fired from areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The regulation laying out the new sanctions, which will take effect Friday, said it will be prohibited for EU firms or citizens to "directly or indirectly purchase, sell, provide brokering or assistance in the issuance" of debt instruments by the Russian banks targeted.

The sanctions specifically aim at new debt issuances with a maturity of over 90 days. Russia's state-owned banks last year issued such debt worth 15.8 billion euros ($21 billion), according to EU officials. About half of that, or 7.5 billion euros, was placed on European markets.

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

The Canadian Press


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