EU adds 160 Russian oligarchs, lawmakers to sanctions blacklist

A target of the EU sanctions is ex-Formula One driver Nikita Mazepin, who was recently sacked by his Haas team over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. His father, chemicals billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, is also on the list. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The EU on Wednesday (March 9) added 160 Russian oligarchs and lawmakers to its blacklist, targeted crypto-assets and hit the maritime sector as it tightened sanctions over Moscow's war in Ukraine.

The 27-nation bloc also gave the go-ahead to cut three Belarusian banks from the global SWIFT messaging system over Minsk's support for the Kremlin's attack.

The EU is looking to close off loopholes in the unprecedented barrage of sanctions it unleashed along with Western allies after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion.

"We are further tightening the net of sanctions responding to Russia's military aggression against Ukraine," European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.

A statement said 146 members of Russia's upper house of parliament and 14 Kremlin-linked oligarchs and their relatives would be added to the assets freeze and visa ban blacklist.

Those hit included multi-billionaire coal and fertiliser magnate Andrei Melnichenko, Aeroflot chief executive officer Mikhail Poluboyarinov, and pipeline tycoon Dmitry Pumpyansky.

In addition, there was also chemicals billionaire Dmitry Mazepin and his son Nikita, a Formula 1 driver who was recently sacked by his team Haas.

In a sign the EU is now going after the relatives of prominent figures it also blacklisted the son-in-law of foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, major food retailer Alexander Vinokurov.

The bloc will also broaden restrictions to cover cryptocurrencies in a bid to prevent sanctioned individuals and companies using the encrypted digital systems to circumvent the sanctions.

The measures against the maritime sector will restrict exports of "navigation and radio communication technology" to Russia.

Kremlin ally Belarus has been used as a key launchpad for Moscow's offensive and the EU is also stepping up measures against the country.

That includes cutting three banks - Belagroprombank, Bank Dabrabyt, and the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus - from the SWIFT system.

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Furthermore the bloc will "prohibit transactions with the Central Bank of Belarus related to the management of reserves or assets" and limit financial inflows from Belarus into the EU.

The EU is trying to ratchet up pressure on the Kremlin and officials say they are ready to impose further sanctions on Moscow if it does not end the war.

But the bloc has so far rejected following the lead of the United States and targeting Russia's key oil and gas exports given the reliance of member states on energy from its giant eastern neighbour.

Follow The Straits Times' live coverage on the Ukraine crisis here.

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