West toughens sanctions on Russia
EU leaders ordered tougher sanctions against Russia tonight over its actions in Ukraine, asking the European Investment Bank to sign no new financing agreements with Moscow.
And President Barack Obama said the US was hitting Russia with new economic sanctions because it had failed to defuse tensions with Ukraine.
They also signalled their willingness for the first time to go after Russian companies "that are materially or financially supporting actions undermining or threatening Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence", ordering their foreign ministers to draw up a list of such people or entities by the end of the month.
In a decision that could affect Russian oligarchs or members of the Kremlin inner circle, the EU leaders also asked the ministers to consider targeting people or companies "who actively provide material or financial support to the Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine".
Until now the EU had targeted 72 people in Ukraine and Russia with asset freezes and visa bans, as well as two Crimea-based companies whose assets in EU member countries were frozen.
The ramped-up sanctions indicated European leaders' exasperation over Russia's failure to heed the demands they made at their last summit on June 27 to take specific actions to end the armed pro-Moscow revolt in Ukraine's east.
The leaders also asked the EU's executive arm, the European Commission, to consider on a case-by-case basis whether EU-Russian co-operation programmes with Russia should be suspended, except those dealing with cross-border cooperation and security. They also requested recommendations on how to restrict investment in Crimea, which the EU accuses Moscow of annexing illegally by force.
The increased economic pressure is designed to end the uprising in eastern Ukraine that is widely believed to be backed by Russia.
Mr Obama said he preferred a diplomatic solution but Russia had not shown it was committed to ending the conflict.
The latest US sanctions target leading Russian energy firms and financial institutions, as well as Russian companies that make weapons. Officials say the ability of these entities to access American capital markets will be limited.
An adviser to Russian president Vladimir Putin and three other individuals were also targeted.