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Russia Vows To Respond To Fresh EU Sanctions

Crew members of Ukrainian naval ships seized by Russia in November 2018 react during the hearing of an appeal on extended detention in Moscow on February 13.
Crew members of Ukrainian naval ships seized by Russia in November 2018 react during the hearing of an appeal on extended detention in Moscow on February 13.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced Moscow will respond to fresh sanction action by the European Union.

The EU, along with the United States and Canada, on March 15 imposed new sanctions to punish Russia for its 2018 attack on three Ukrainian naval vessels as well as its annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists and other actions in eastern Ukraine.

"The decision of the Council of the European Union shows disrespect for the Russian Federation's right to ensure protection of its state border," the Russian Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by Interfax on March 16.

Russia captured the three Ukrainian naval ships and their 24 crew members in November 2018 near the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and Sea of Azov.

Moscow alleged that the vessels had illegally entered Russian territorial waters near Crimea, which Russia occupied and annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukraine and most UN member states do not recognize the annexation. The 24 Ukrainian sailors are still being held by Moscow.

The EU action announced on March 15 targeted eight Russian officers for their involvement in the November incident.

The EU sanctions list now includes 170 individuals and 44 entities.

Washington also cited the Russian seizure of the Ukrainian vessels and crew in announcing its new sanctions.

"Today's action targets individuals and entities playing a role in Russia's unjustified attacks on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Kerch Strait, the purported annexation of Crimea, and backing of illegitimate separatist government elections in eastern Ukraine," the U.S. Treasury said in a March 15 statement.

Six officials were targeted, along with six Russian defense companies, and two Russian energy and construction firms operating in Crimea.

The six defense firms operating in Crimea were targeted for misappropriating Ukrainian state assets to provide services to the Russian military during the 2014 annexation, it said.

Four of the six Russian officials targeted by the measure were involved in the attack near the Kerch Strait attack in November off the coast of Crimea, the Treasury said.

"The United States and our transatlantic partners will not allow Russia's continued aggression against Ukraine to go unchecked," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

"This joint initiative with our partners in the European Union and Canada reinforces our shared commitment to impose targeted and meaningful sanctions in response to the Kremlin's attempts to disregard international norms and undermine Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," he added.

Some 13,000 people have been killed, a quarter of them civilians, and as many as 30,000 wounded in the war in eastern Ukraine since it broke out in April 2014, according to UN data.

With reporting by Interfax and Reuters
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