Two top officials in Russia’s Defence Ministry were hit on Monday with as part of the European Union’s latest round of sanctions over the year-long crisis in Ukraine.
The measure is likely to further fuel tensions between Moscow and the West, tensions which have already reached their highest point since the end of the Cold War.
First Deputy Defence Minister Arkady Bakhin is now barred from traveling to the 28 countries of the EU, while any assets the Russian Army general may have had in the bloc are frozen.
The same goes for Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov – one of eight deputy ministers in the ministry.
The EU wrote in its official journal that the two men are “involved in supporting the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine” and in shaping Russian policies that “threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”
EU foreign ministers agreed to the new sanctions on February 9, following a deadly attack on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. The implementation of the restrictive measures was delayed by a week, however, to “give space” to a new peace initiative.
That effort, spearheaded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, led to a new peace deal last week between Russia and Ukraine – complete with a ceasefire that came into effect on Sunday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was illogical and incoherent to announce fresh sanctions days after a new peace deal was signed in Minsk with the participation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.
“You get the impression that the sanctions wheel is spinning out of control,” the ministry said.
EU leaders have expressed caution about the peace plan, saying they are waiting to see if Moscow and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine follow through with actions on the ground. A previous peace deal struck in September never was implemented.
The new sanctions target a total of 19 people and nine groups. The individuals include Andrei Kartapolov, deputy chief of the Russian armed forces’ general staff, as well as parliamentarians Iosif Kobzon and Valery Rashkin.
Kartapolov is “actively involved in shaping and implementing the military campaign of the Russian forces in Ukraine,” the EU official journal said.
Kobzon a “honorary consul” of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine, has made statements supporting the separatists and voted in favour of the Russian law that led to the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, according to the EU.
Rashkin, meanwhile, is accused of founding a civil movement that has organized public demonstrations in support of the Ukrainian separatists and of voting in favour of the Crimea law.
Russian organization Novorossiya or New Russia is among the nine entities also facing asset freezes in the sanctions. According to the EU official journal, the public movement, headed by Russian officer Igor Strelkov, helps separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The other people and entities on the list are leading separatists and associated groups in Ukraine.