The EU will seek to freeze assets held abroad of Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, as part of a new sanctions package to be finalized on Friday, foreign ministers have announced .
The move is largely symbolic, as the Russian president is unlikely to have identifiable personal assets abroad, but it will be part of an attempt to highlight EU resolve.
“I think we agree that Putin and Lavrov, regarding the freezing of assets, that we will find a consensus here,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said: “If there are no surprises and nobody opposes it because we demand unanimity, then yes, Putin and Lavrov will be on the list.”
Putin and Lavrov, who has served as foreign minister since 2004, would not face travel bans as the EU wants to maintain a diplomatic channel through the crisis, the ministers said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had accused Europe of not being tough or quick enough to sanction Russia earlier on Friday, urging citizens to force their governments to do more to stop Putin’s invasion.
As Russian forces encircle Kiev, Zelenskiy said the EU had the ability to deter Russia from further aggression, but the bloc and other Western allies were not doing enough.
EU leaders had agreed in the early hours of Friday to impose a second round of measures aimed at crippling the Russian economy. Foreign ministers were expected to approve the new sanctions on Friday afternoon, with more banks, state-owned companies and individuals targeted, as well as key sectors of Russia’s economy.
But the EU refrains from blocking Russia from an international payment system through which it receives foreign currency or personally targeting Putin with sanctions.
“Europe has enough strength to stop this aggression,” Zelenskiy said. “You can always stop this aggression. You must act quickly. We demand an effective reaction against the Russian Federation. Sanctions need to be further strengthened.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (Swift) is used by more than 11,000 financial institutions to send secure payment orders and is essential for the movement of funds to the Russian oil and gas sector.
But Germany, France, Italy and Cyprus have persuaded EU allies not to budge. A government spokesman in Berlin said on Friday that the consequences of Russia blocking Swift would be huge on the country’s economy and that preparations should be made.
When asked why Swift was not included in the punitive measures, Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, replied that it was “because we had to act quickly”. The minister added: “There will be other sanctions.”
Friday afternoon, Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, spoke with Zelenskiy to reassure him on the development of a third package of sanctions.
Boris Johnson backs Swift’s removal of Russia and Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said his government is also supportive, although the package as it stands is strong.
Martin said: “People have different views on the effectiveness or value of Swift per se, so I don’t think we should just focus on Swift because the sanctions will hit the industrial base hard, in terms of areas that will hurt Russia’s economy. Over time, these sanctions will have an impact. It won’t stop what’s happening.
He added: “Our priority as the Irish government was to have unity around the table. It was very, very important. That said, we have pushed and will continue to push for the sanctions to be as broad as possible. So, yes, the Irish government has no problem getting the Swift system sanctioned, and that’s something we would support.
According to a leaked draft of the new sanctions agreed by EU leaders, all members of the Duma, the Russian Security Council and all Belarusian military and defense ministry officials who ‘facilitated’ the invasion of Ukraine will be subject to travel bans and asset freezes.
It is also proposed to expand the listing criteria to impose sanctions on individuals to “better capture other forms of support for the regime, including oligarchs”.
Two more banks will face sanctions, Alfa bank and Otkritie, and EU financial services providers will be banned from lending to eight state-owned companies, ranging from seaport owners to carmakers.
There is also a proposal to ban new deposits of more than €100,000 in EU banks by Russian nationals, according to the draft. Foreign ministers will meet later this afternoon to approve the text.
There will be a ban on the sale of all aircraft, spare parts and equipment to Russian airlines and the EU will limit Russia’s access to crucial technologies such as semiconductors.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on possible punitive measures against Putin, but said Russia had deliberately reduced its reliance on foreign imports to protect against sanctions.
He said: “The main objective…was to achieve complete self-sufficiency and complete import substitution where necessary. To a large extent, this objective has been achieved. There will undoubtedly be problems, but they will not be insurmountable.