Brussels - European Union officials have given preliminary approval to broadening the bloc's Ukraine-related sanctions to include people, companies or organizations that have profited illicitly from Russia's takeover of Crimea, senior EU diplomats said Thursday.
To take effect, the new sanctions must be formally approved by the EU's foreign ministers, who will meet in Brussels on Monday. Decisions on sanctions require unanimous support from all 28 EU nations.
To date, the EU has ordered a visa ban and asset freeze for 48 people it accuses of threatening Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.
A senior EU diplomat, speaking anonymously since the approval has not been formalized, said there now is agreement that this criterion was too narrow and made it impossible to go after companies, as the Obama administration has done in a separate U.S. sanctions list that targets several close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin and their assets.
The E.U. diplomat said there's also approval in principle by EU national representatives to allow sanctions against people or bodies involved in the “confiscation” of Crimean property that would be illegal under Ukrainian law or if they have obstructed the work of international organizations in Ukraine.
Further discussions on the issue were expected, including on who makes the list of people or entities subject to the new sanctions, the diplomat said Thursday.