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Sources Say EU Ready With Sanctions Over Russia's Detention Of Ukraine Seamen

Captured Ukrainian sailors, await trial in Moscow last month.

BRUSSELS -- EU diplomats have agreed to impose asset freezes and visa bans on a number of Russians involved in the capture and detention of 24 Ukrainian seamen during an incident near the Kerch Strait in November, several sources familiar with the negotiations who are not authorized to speak on the record have told RFE/RL.

The exact number of people to be sanctioned has not been established yet, but it is believed to be around eight individuals who are either officers who were involved in the Kerch Strait incident or Russian judges who oversaw the subsequent detention of the Ukrainians.

The incident occurred on November 25 when Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on and then captured three Ukrainian Navy vessels and their crews while they were on their way to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Moscow accuses them of illegally entering Russian territorial waters.

The Kerch Strait, near the Ukrainian region of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, is a narrow passage that connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

A push to adopt the sanctions in December floundered due to French, German, and Italian opposition. However, according to diplomats, the continued detention of the crews by Russia has brought the EU together on the matter of additional measures.

EU foreign ministers will discuss Ukraine when they meet in Brussels on February 18, but the sanctions are expected to be approved by EU ambassadors later this month.

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