EU and US prepare tighter Russia sanctions

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Western countries are preparing to tighten sanctions on Russia over its action in Ukraine, US and British officials say.

Targets would include Russia’s defence industry, state-owned banks and associates of President Vladimir Putin.

Peace talks including Ukraine, Russia and pro-Russia rebels are due to start in Belarus on Friday.

The West accuses Russia of sending arms and troops to back the rebels in eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies this.

A UK government official said the European Union would announce – jointly with the US – sanctions on Friday, including more restrictions on Russian banking, energy and defence.

More of what the official dubbed “Putin cronies” would have travel bans imposed on them.

“We will keep the pressure on Putin to force him to the negotiating table and off the battlefield,” the official said.

Deputy White House National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, speaking at the Nato summit in Wales, said the US was finalising new penalties.

French President Francois Hollande said European leaders would announce sanctions on Friday “and put them into action if there is no progress [on Ukraine], but everything will depend on the coming hours”.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and rebel leaders said a ceasefire could be agreed on Friday.

Mr Poroshenko, who was also at the Nato summit, said the implementation of a peace plan could start on Friday, a hope expressed earlier by Mr Putin.

The Ukrainian leader said this depended on Friday’s talks in Minsk between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the pro-Russian rebels and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Mr Poroshenko said he was “carefully optimistic” about the outcome of the talks.

Rebel leaders were quoted as saying they would order a ceasefire at 11:00 GMT on Friday if the peace plan was agreed.

On Wednesday, Mr Putin announced a seven-point plan, including a halt to “active offensive operations” by the Ukrainian military and pro-Russia rebels, international ceasefire monitoring, unconditional prisoner exchanges and humanitarian aid corridors.

Copyright – Global Runs 2014

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