New EU sanctions against Russia are to come into effect on Friday, but will be reviewed in light of progress following a ceasefire deal in eastern Ukraine, the EU said on Thursday.
The latest round of sanctions targets five state-owned banks, three major defence companies, oil-exploration projects and 24 individuals, including “Russian decision-makers.”
EU President Herman Van Rompuy said the sanctions could be reversed or adjusted, adding that a “comprehensive review of the implementation of the peace plan” is to take place before the end of the month.
“In the light of the review and if the situation on the ground so warrants,” he said EU governments would consider “proposals to amend, suspend or repeal the set of sanctions in force, in all or in part.”
An EU statement said the new sanctions meant EU nationals and companies were no longer allowed to provide loans to five major Russian state-owned banks.
“Debt financing to three major Russian defence companies and three major energy companies has also been prohibited.
“Services necessary for deep-water oil exploration and production, Arctic oil exploration or production, and shale oil projects in Russia may no more be supplied,” it said.
The 24 new people hit by travel bans and asset freezes are “involved in actions against Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including the new leadership in Donbass, the government of Crimea as well as Russian decision-makers and oligarchs.”
The measures were officially agreed on Monday, but EU ambassadors had disagreed over their implementation amid fears that they could hamper the fragile ceasefire, as well as concerns over Russian retaliation.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich confirmed those anxieties, calling the sanctions an “unfriendly act” and promising a reprisal.
“Our response will be proportionate to the damage those sanctions do to the economies of our states,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
Meanwhile, the EU is pledging an extra 22 million euros (28.4 million dollars) to help people in the regions of Ukraine worst hit by the conflict, its executive body said.
“The current ceasefire needs to be upheld and used as an opportunity to alleviate the conditions of those in need,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said.
The funding comprises 5 million euros in humanitarian aid to address basic needs, such as food, shelter and health care, and 17 million euros in development aid for the worst affected areas and those hosting internal refugees.
The agreement signed in Minsk last Friday between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists includes a ceasefire, a special political status for separatist-controlled areas and a prisoner exchange.
The ceasefire was largely holding on Thursday, although the government in Kiev again accused the separatists of violations.
National Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the rebels had shot at government positions 20 times in the past 24 hours, local news agencies reported.
The council also admitted for the first time that the insurgents have greatly extended the territory under their control. Its daily map of military operations showed that the separatists now control the whole region along the Russian border between Donetsk and the Sea of Azov.
NATO said on Thursday that 1,000 Russian soldiers remain in eastern Ukraine, with substantial amounts of military equipment, with a further 20,000 troops stationed along the Ukrainian border.
Meanwhile, Poland announced on Thursday that its gas deliveries from Russia had dropped by 45 per cent.
Russian energy giant Gazprom had given no reason for this, Polish energy supplier PGNiG said.
Gazprom denied any reductions in deliveries to Poland.
Poland receives Russian gas from pipelines that run through Ukraine and Belarus. It is one of several EU countries reliant on Russian supplies.
The European Commission, which is brokering in a dispute between Kiev and Moscow over gas prices and deliveries, said it had proposed a new round of three-way talks to take place on September 20 in Berlin.
The talks could also take developments in Poland into account.
Slovakia has also reported a reduction in Russian gas flows.
Earlier this month, Slovakia opened a pipeline delivering Russian gas to Ukraine via a so-called a reverse flow mechanism.