Damage to UK over Russian sanctions price worth paying says Hague

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William Hague has insisted damage to the British economy from imposing trade sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis would be a “price worth paying”.

The Foreign Secretary said the EU, US and allies would be bringing forward further travel bans and asset freezes against Moscow over the coming days as punishment for its “bullying” behaviour.

But he warned that “more far reaching measures” were also being prepared that would have a fundamental impact.

The comments came after US president Barack Obama accused counterpart Vladimir Putin of failing to “lift a finger” to persuade pro-Russian militants to comply with the Geneva deal intended to defuse the situation.

“In fact, there’s strong evidence that they’ve been encouraging the activities in eastern and southern Ukraine,” Mr Obama said on a visit to Malaysia.

Speaking on Sky News’s Murnaghan programme, Mr Hague said discussions were still going on about the repercussions but “were likely to be an extension of existing sanctions, of the travel bans and asset freezes on individuals”.

“We will calculate them in a way that has the maximum effect on the Russian economy and the minimum effect on our own economies in the EU.”

He went on: “It would be a price worth paying if this situation continues to deteriorate - yes it would.

Eight European military observers held prisoner by pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine were marched out under armed guard yesterday to give public assurances that they were not being mistreated.

One of the observers, a Swedish officer, was later released for medical reasons.