Russians linked to Kremlin face assets freeze and travel ban
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Monday 10 March 2014
Officials from Britain, the rest of the European Union and the United States will meet in London on Tuesday to draw up a list of senior figures linked to the Russian government to be hit by an asset freeze and travel ban over the crisis in Ukraine.
The sanctions would be imposed by EU foreign ministers when they meet in Brussels next Monday, unless Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, has agreed to direct talks with the Ukrainian Government by then. Government sources in London said the setting up of a "contact group" to ensure dialogue between Moscow and Kiev is regarded as the top priority by the West.
Officials from the US, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Japan, Turkey and Canada will attend today's talks at the Foreign Office.
They will discuss extending measures against 18 Ukrainian individuals already identified by the EU to non-EU countries and also adding more Russian senior officials to the list.
David Cameron will meet foreign ministers today
They could be subjected to a travel ban and asset freeze for their role in the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. Talks will centre on the criteria and types of individuals the measures could be applied to.
The EU is expected to act in concert with America, where President Barack Obama last week ordered the freezing of US assets and a ban on travel into the US of those involved in threatening Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the incursion into Crimea.
On Monday, Nato agreed to start Airborne Warning and Control System (Awacs) reconnaissance flights over Poland and Romania to help monitor the crisis in Ukraine. Nato ambassadors accepted a recommendation from US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the alliance's top military commander
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David Cameron told MPs that Russia had "days, not weeks" to head off the proposed sanctions by setting up a contact group.
British officials said the EU foreign ministers' meeting is in effect the deadline, and that the EU would implement asset freezes and travel bans then, without calling a further meeting of EU presidents and prime ministers.
The Prime Minister condemned plans to hold a referendum in Crimea next Sunday to formalise Russia's control. "We are all clear that any referendum vote in Crimea this week will be illegal, illegitimate and will not be recognised by the international community," he said.
At talks with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, on Sunday, Mr Cameron said that the two leaders agreed that "any attempt by Russia to legitimise an illegal referendum would require us to respond by ratcheting up the pressure further"
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