New wave of sanctions to hit Putin’s ‘cronies’

Friends and allies of Vladimir Putin could be targeted in a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia following the MH17 tragedy.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the “cronies” around the Russian president could be included in measures after European leaders agreed on the need for tougher measures.

Mr Hammond acknowledged London could be affected by any restrictions on the flow of Russian money, and insisted other European countries would also have to take some of the pain of a more punitive sanctions regime.

Foreign ministers from across the European Union will meet tomorrow to discuss the measures, which would build on existing sanctions imposed as a result of Russia’s involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister Cameron agreed that the EU should be ready to impose more stringent penalties on Russia.

Mr Hammond said: “We have to move in a group, these are European Union sanctions, the United States has done its own thing separately.

“What we need to do now is use the sense of shock, the sense of outrage, to galvanise opinion behind a more robust stance.

“We have tools in our toolbox, we have levers which we can apply to Russia. We can inflict damage on the Russian economy.”

French arms sales to the Russians and German imports of Russia gas have been seen as possible barriers to tougher sanctions.

Mr Hammond said: “If they continue to allow arms to pass across the border, if they continue to provide the kind of support they have been to the rebels... there will be stiffer and longer lasting consequences for the Russian economy.”

He said that as well as arms and energy measures, there could be a ban on investing in the Crimea – “sending a clear signal that we will not tolerate the illegal annexation of Crimea”.

Another option being considered would be “broadening the number of individuals who are subject to sanctions to include the so-called crony group around President Putin”, he said.

“There’s a range of measures and we will want to discuss with European partners what the scope now is to take that forward in the light of what has happened,” he said.

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