Putin's 'cronies' get two weeks to pull cash out of EU
Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin have two weeks to get their cash out of the EU to avoid sanctions.
European Union officials have started to prepare the list of businessmen and officials who will be targeted.
Philip Hammond, Britain's foreign secretary, made clear his government's determination to take action against those close to the Russian president's regime.
"The word is 'cronies'," he said. "The cronies of Mr Putin and his clique in the Kremlin are the people who have to bear the pressure. "If the financial interests of the group around the leadership are affected, the leadership will know about it."
However, sources disclosed that not all EU countries will have compiled their lists of the Russians to be affected until the end of the month.
The length of time before any action against "Putin's cronies" will add to concerns that they can withdraw their money before sanctions are enforced.
The measures are likely to be targeted at oligarchs or companies linked to Mr Putin.
Sanctions are unlikely to be retrospective, meaning existing investments or contracts would not be touched.
One European diplomat said: "After all this time, the effect of sanctions is going to be weakened. The EU's inability to respond quickly and with resolve could damage it forever on the world stage."
The news emerged as ambassadors from EU countries gather in Brussels today to consider which trading areas should be subject to sanctions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)