EU Adopts New Sanctions on Russia

EU Adopts New Sanctions on RussiaEU Adopts New Sanctions on Russia

European Union member states have formally adopted new sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

The new measures include restrictions on large Russian state-owned oil companies raising money on European financial markets.

However, the new measures will come into effect "in the next few days", not on Tuesday as some had expected.

Russia denies accusations by Ukraine and the West that it has been sending troops to help pro-Russian separatists.

EU Council President Herman van Rompuy said the measures were aimed at "promoting a change of course in Russia's actions destabilizing eastern Ukraine".

But the 28-member bloc is being deliberately vague about when they will come into force, to allow time to assess the implementation of a ceasefire agreed on Friday, BBC reports.

"Depending on the situation on the ground, the EU stands ready to review the agreed sanctions in whole or in part," van Rompuy said.

The ceasefire appears to be holding, although the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which brokered the deal, described it on Monday as "shaky".

Before the truce came into place, pro-Russian separatists made big gains in eastern Ukraine and seized territory a few miles outside the strategic south-eastern port city of Mariupol.

The gas sector is not affected by the latest sanctions. However, major state-owned oil firms are included, such as Rosneft, which is already targeted by US measures.

Russia has warned that it could block international flights through its airspace if the EU goes ahead with new measures.

Diplomats say the new package will target Russian oil companies Rosneft and Transneft and the petroleum unit of state gas monopoly Gazprom.

Their access to financial markets will be restricted - a serious matter for Rosneft, which last month asked the Russian government for a $42bn (£25.2bn) loan.

> Prisoner Release

Also on Monday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have released 1,200 prisoners.

The releases followed Friday's ceasefire deal, he said, which included an exchange of prisoners.

He was speaking during a visit to Mariupol, which has come under shelling from pro-Russian forces in recent days.

Poroshenko said during his visit on Monday that the city's defenses would be reinforced and that separatists would suffer a "crushing defeat" if they advanced on the city.

Mariupol is the last city in Donetsk region still held by the Ukrainian government and is a strategic port on the route to Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in March.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has left some 2,600 people dead since April.