Banks, arms firms and oil targeted in 
Russian sanctions

New European Union sanctions curbing access to western financial markets for some of Russia’s largest firms are targeting banks, arms manufacturers and oil.

The country’s leading oil company, Rosneft, is affected as well as the crude subsidiary of its state-owned energy giant Gazprom.

The measures published in the 28-nation bloc’s official journal came as a beefed-up response to what the West sees as Russia’s destabilising actions in Ukraine. The United States is expected to announce another round of Russia sanctions later.

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The sanctions also ban another 24 officials from travelling to the EU and freeze their assets there. Among them are four deputy parliament speakers and leaders of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

They also hit businessman Sergey Viktorovich Chemezov, who served in the Soviet intelligence service in Germany alongside President Vladimir Putin during the Cold War and is now known as one of his “close associates”, according to the EU.

The sanctions curbing access to Europe’s financial market also hit pipeline operator Transneft, arms firms and Russia’s plane maker United Aircraft Corporation.

They forbid EU companies from engaging in new contracts in oil drilling, exploration and related services in Russia’s Arctic, deep sea and shale oil projects. Russia’s directly targeted oil major Rosneft is majority-owned by the state, but Britain’s BP holds a 19.75 per cent stake in it.

Conspicuously absent from the high-level targets chosen, however, were Russian gas companies – such as Gazprom – because Europe depends on Russian gas imports.

The sanctions take immediate effect and will be reviewed by EU nations at the end of the month in light of the situation in eastern Ukraine. Russia has threatened to retaliate against the sanctions.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz said the new sanctions were a sign to Moscow that there is “no return to business as usual”.