EU working on 10th round of Russia sanctions - diplomats

The United States will impose additional sanctions next week against the Russian private military company, the Wagner Group.

 Flags of European Union and Ukraine flutter outside EU Parliament building, in Brussels, Belgium, February 28, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)
Flags of European Union and Ukraine flutter outside EU Parliament building, in Brussels, Belgium, February 28, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)

European Union countries are working on a 10th package of sanctions to take effect next month against Russia for waging war against Ukraine, diplomatic sources told Reuters.

The EU's Russia hawks have already asked for new sanctions to curb the bloc's nuclear fuel cooperation with Moscow, ban imports of Russian diamonds and reduce trade with Kremlin's ally Belarus, among other measures.

New sanctions on the invasion's anniversary

On Friday, senior diplomats from three middle-way countries said the next round of sanctions should be ready around the anniversary on Febuary 24 of Russia's invasion of its neighbor, an ex-Soviet republic that in recent years has sought to integrate with the West.

"The next package of sanctions will be ready somewhere around the tragic first anniversary of the invasion," said one of the senior diplomats, while a second said "there was ambition" to have the measures ready at that time.

They would not, however, discuss who and what might fall under the package. Blacklisting individuals generally gathers the necessary support of all the EU's 27 countries more easily than hard-hitting economic sanctions.

 EUROPEAN UNION flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels. (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS) EUROPEAN UNION flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels. (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

"It's too early, we just had the ninth package," said a senior diplomat from another EU country, one that still needed to be convinced on moving to another set of sanctions after the previous batch was agreed in December.

No decisions on the matter are expected when EU foreign ministers meet on Monday, but some are likely to use the opportunity to push the discussion.

EU officials are also seeking approval from the ministers for a seventh tranche of military aid for Ukraine worth 500 million euros.

The Hungarian foreign ministry and the government spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on reports that Budapest was blocking that move ahead of the talks on Monday.

Before that, the 27 national envoys to the EU will discuss this weekend a looming review of the bloc's price cap on Russian oil, with Poland and Lithuania among those calling for it to be lowered.

The foreign ministers are also expected on Monday to add more individuals to its Iran sanctions list over human rights abuses, with some EU countries calling for even more action in response to Tehran providing drones that Russia uses in Ukraine.

US sanctions Wagner

The United States will impose additional sanctions next week against the Russian private military company, the Wagner Group, that US officials say has been helping Russia's military in the Ukraine war, a senior administration official said on Friday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US Treasury Department will designate Wagner as a significant Transnational Criminal Organization.

"In coordination with this designation, we will also impose additional sanctions next week against Wagner and its support network across multiple continents. These actions recognize the transcontinental threat that Wagner poses, including through its ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity," the official said.

Declaring Wagner a Transnational Criminal Organization under US executive order 13581 freezes any US assets of Wagner and prohibits Americans from providing funds, goods, or services to the group.

"With these actions, and more to come, our message to any company that is considering providing support to Wagner is this: Wagner is a criminal organization that is committing widespread atrocities and human rights abuses, and we will work relentlessly to identify, disrupt, expose, and target those assisting Wagner," the official said.

Last month the White House said the Wagner Group took delivery of an arms shipment from North Korea to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine, in a sign of the group's expanding role in that conflict.

North Korea's foreign ministry had called the report groundless and denounced the United States for providing lethal weapons to Ukraine. Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin last month denied taking delivery of arms from North Korea and characterized the report as "gossip and speculation."

The US government on Friday made public an image dated November 18 that it said showed Russian rail cars traveling between Russia and North Korea.