The European Union has widened sanctions against Russian companies and persons, including the deputy energy minister, over the illegal diversion of four Siemens gas turbines from southern Russia to Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.
EU diplomats on August 4 said Deputy Energy Minister Andrei Cherezov and a department head at the ministry, Yevgeny Grabchak, have been added to the sanctions list for “actions undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence.”
The European Council said those sanctioned will be subject to a travel ban and a freeze of assets held in the EU.
EU member states had until late on August 4 to object to the new sanctions.
The decision must be unanimous, but two diplomatic sources told Reuters they did not expect any objections.
The European Council also placed sanctions on Sergei Topor-Gilka, listed as chief executive of the state firm Technopromeksport. It said Topor-Gilka led negotiations with Siemens to acquire the gas turbines that eventually were illegally diverted to Crimea.
Three companies, including Technopromeksport, were also targeted by the new sanctions.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called the decision to expand the sanctions an "unfriendly and unjustified" step and that it reserved the right to take retaliatory measures.
A spokesperson at the Energy Ministry told state-run TASS news agency that Cherezov had no comment about the EU action.
Crimea has been subjected to EU sanctions on energy technology since Russian military forces seized control of the Ukrainian region in March 2014 and the Kremlin staged a referendum that has been deemed as illegitimate by most countries in the world.
The latest move will bring the total to 153 persons and 40 entities on the EU sanctions list. The measures were introduced in March 2014 and were extended in March until at least September 15, 2017.
Siemens has said the turbines were "illegally" diverted "against our will" to Crimea and that it was cutting some of its ties to Russia following reports of the illegal shipments.
It said the turbines originally had been sold for use at the Taman power plant in southern Russia.
The United States and other Western nations have imposed sanctions on Moscow after it illegally annexed the Crimean region and for its support of separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.
Russia denies providing weapons and personnel to the separatists despite evidence of such support.