Brussels - The European Commission will shortly begin work on defence sector sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said.
The “EU commission will be tasked to prepare targeted sanctions in the sectors of key technology and military,” he said.
Other EU sources confirmed his comments, which came as a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers tried to work out a united response after last week's downing of flight MH17 over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine and amid Western allegations that the separatists shot down the flight with a Russia-supplied missile system.
One source said other areas being looked at, other than defence and high technology, included access to European financial markets, the energy sector and dual-use goods which can have both civil and defence applications.
It was not immediately clear if such measures would go beyond the current “Phase 2” visa bans and asset freezes which the EU has imposed on 72 Russian and Ukrainian figures for their role in the crisis to much broader “Phase 3” measures involving real pain for all sides.
Such a step would require another summit after EU leaders agreed only last Wednesday to extend the Phase 2 measures because Russia showed no sign of reversing course in Ukraine.
Britain has led the way for tougher measures and Prime Minister David Cameron called Monday for Phase 3 steps and an arms embargo on Russia following the loss of flight MH17 with nearly 300 dead.
It was not immediately clear if defence sector sanctions would affect France's Mistral warship deal with Russia, which is worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion). - Sapa-AFP