MOSCOW, April 9 (RIA Novosti) – The European Union could add more Russian journalists and law enforcement officers to a list of people targeted by sanctions, bringing to 107 the number of figures sanctioned by the bloc, the Kommersant business daily said Wednesday, citing sources in Brussels.
The expanded EU blacklist of Russians facing visa bans and asset freezes, including top government officials and businessmen, would be imposed if the EU decides Russia is escalating the conflict in Ukraine, sources said.
The sanctions could target Russian media organizations and journalists who “actively participated in the propaganda efforts” in support of Crimea’s reunification with Russia last month.
The potential list includes Russia's largest media group, Gazprom-media, and four major Russian TV channels: Rossiya, Russia Today, Channel One and NTV.
Three individual journalists could be added to the blacklist, Mikhail Leontyev, Irada Zeynalova and Mikhail Gusman, who may face sanctions similar to those already imposed against Dmitry Kiselev, a prominent Russian TV journalist and head of the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency.
Kiselev, known for his fierce criticism of the West and pro-Russian stance, was the only journalist in the world to be targeted by political sanctions last month and barred from travelling, owning property or banking in the EU. The sanctions against him were strongly condemned by the World Press Freedom Committee, one of the leading organizations on the rights of journalists.
In an interview with Russia's Izvestia daily, Kiselev said the sanctions against him threaten the rights of all journalists around the world. He also explained that Russia and the West have switched roles and now Russia has become the main defender of democratic principles and freedom of speech.
The bans against Russian individuals, accused of undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, would be introduced before a round of EU economic sanctions against Russia.
EU financial losses if broad economic sanctions are imposed against Russia could reach a trillion euros, according to Sergei Glazyev, an adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia says the crisis in Ukraine is the result of actions by the country’s new authorities, who seized power as a result of an illegitimate coup that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych in February.
The EU could add further Crimean officials to the blacklist for their role in the reunification process. The potential list also includes officials from the Russian presidential administration, bringing the total number of targeted Russians to 130, the report said citing sources.
In an attempt to penalize Russia over the reunification of Crimea with the country, the EU imposed targeted economic sanctions last month against 13 Russian senators and military officials, and 12 members of the Russian presidential administration, lawmakers and staff in the Defense Ministry.
The US is also working on new sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy due to its interference in Ukrainian internal affairs, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
Foreign Secretary William Hague called on the EU Tuesday to toughen sanctions against Russia, saying the recent protests in southeastern Ukraine bore "all the hallmarks of a Russian strategy to destabilize Ukraine."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the claims Tuesday and warned the West against shifting the blame onto Moscow for the ongoing political turmoil in the country.
Protesters have been rallying for federalization across Ukraine’s eastern and southeastern regions of Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Lugansk, calling for Crimea-style referendums on the status of their regions within Ukraine.
Beginning last month, protests in eastern cities have been held each Sunday, with citizens refusing to accept their newly-appointed governors as legitimate, as they were installed by the organizers of the coup that came to power in the capital.