EU seeks trade sanctions on Russia over ‘sham’ Ukraine votes

'We are determined to make the Kremlin pay for this further escalation'
EU seeks trade sanctions on Russia over ‘sham’ Ukraine votes
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, left, and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell address a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels (Olivier Matthys/AP)

European Union countries should impose “biting sanctions” on Russian trade and hit officials responsible for “sham referendums” held in parts of Ukraine, senior EU officials have said.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the Kremlin-orchestrated referendums on joining Russia “are an illegal attempt to grab land and change international borders by force”.

“We are determined to make the Kremlin pay for this further escalation,” she said.

“We propose sweeping new import bans on Russian products.”

A man crosses a street with a billboard reading ‘With Russia forever, September 27’ prior to a referendum in Luhansk, controlled by Russia-backed separatists, in eastern Ukraine (AP)

The EU’s executive branch, headed by Ms von der Leyen, has drawn up several rafts of sanctions against Russia since President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of neighbouring Ukraine seven months ago.

Banks, companies and markets have been hit – even parts of the sensitive energy sector – with asset freezes and travel bans slapped on more than 1,200 officials.

But the hard work is yet to come.

The economies of the EU’s 27 member countries have been battered by the Covid-19 pandemic are now struggling against high inflation, with skyrocketing electricity and natural gas prices.

Sanctions are getting harder to agree as they also inflict damage at home.

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