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Ukraine Sanctions Russian Officials, Foreign Journalists

  • RFE/RL

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Ukraine has imposed new sanctions and extended existing measures against scores of Russian politicians and companies, as well as journalists employed by German and Spanish newspapers, in connection with planned elections in separatist-held regions.

President Petro Poroshenko said his September 16 order is a response to a decision by pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to set a date for "illegal elections."

The self-declared separatist leader in the Donetsk region, Alexander Zakharchenko, said local elections there would be on October 18. Local elections in the Luhansk region are set for November 1.

The Minsk peace agreement calls for the ballots to all take place on the same date as local elections across the rest of Ukraine, which have been scheduled for October 25.

"This risky and irresponsible decision requires our firm and coordinated reaction to the threat created to the Minsk agreements, such as prolongation and widening of sanctions," Poroshenko said a meeting with foreign ambassadors on September 16.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said Moscow will analyze the possible consequences of the decision.

The new sanctions, which list more than 400 individuals and 90 companies and other entities, includes Russia's defense minister and parliamentary speaker, pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine, and prominent Russian companies like Aeroflot and Gazprombank.

The list includes a reporter for Germany's Die Zeit newspaper and Spain's El Pais. It had included three Moscow-based BBC employees -- two Brits and a Russian -- but Poroshenko later ordered the removal of the BBC journalists from the list.

BBC Foreign Editor Andrew Roy earlier called the order "a shameful attack on media freedom."

“These sanctions are completely inappropriate and inexplicable measures to take against BBC journalists who are reporting the situation in Ukraine impartially and objectively, and we call on the Ukrainian government to remove their names from this list immediately,” Roy said in an e-mailed statement.

The decision to include journalists was criticized by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, among others.

"While the government may not like or agree with the coverage, labeling journalists a potential threat to national security is not an appropriate response," said the committee's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Nina Ognianova.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said such action is "not the way to ensure security."

Russian journalists from TASS, NTV, Izvestia, and Rossiyskaya Gazeta also are blacklisted. The Kremlin condemned the move as "totally unacceptable."

Kyiv and the West have accused Russian’s state-owned and Kremlin-loyal media outlets of disseminating pro-Moscow “propaganda” in its coverage of the Ukraine conflict.

Two of the Spanish journalists included in the blacklist -- Antonio Pampliega and Ángel Sastre -- went missing in Syria in July.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula last year after sending in troops and staging a referendum denounced by about 100 UN member states as illegitimate.

Kyiv and Western governments accuse Moscow of backing the separatists in their conflict with Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 7,900 people since April 2014 -- a charge the Kremlin denies despite significant evidence of such support.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and The Guardian