Ukraine sanctions French MEPs for visiting Crimea

File photo. Crimean Tatars hold flags during a commemoration meeting on Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, 18 May 2020. [Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA/EFE]

Ukraine has imposed sanctions on two dozen Russian officials and three French members of the European Parliament who visited Russian-annexed Crimea without Kyiv’s permission.

Ukraine has been fighting separatists backed by Russia in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Kyiv accuses Moscow of sending troops and arms to fuel the conflict, referring to the separatists and those who support them as terrorists.

Late Tuesday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed off on new sanctions imposed by Ukraine’s national security and defence council that appeared on the presidency’s website.

The sanctions list included 23 Russian officials representing the interior ministry and various security services, and three French members of the EU parliament’s far-right Identity and Democracy Party.

The presidential decree did not specify why Ukraine had imposed sanctions on Virginie Joron, Jean-Lin Lacapelle and Philippe Olivier, but the three French lawmakers visited Crimea last year without permission from the Ukrainian authorities.

After Moscow annexed Crimea, Kyiv barred visiting the peninsula except via its land border with Ukraine. Russia opened a bridge to Crimea in 2018 and carries flights to its airports.

The sanctions against the French lawmakers freeze their assets in Ukraine, prevent them from withdrawing capital from the country and bar them from entering.

In addition to the French and Russian officials, the sanctions list also included over 80 Russian companies and media outlets.

The financial sanctions targeted among others the state-run TASS news agency and the state-controlled Rossiya Segodnya media holding.

The new penalties come after last month Ukraine slapped sanctions against pro-Moscow lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Also in February Zelenskiy banned three pro-Russian television channels linked to Medvedchuk to stop what his office said was Kremlin propaganda.

In recent weeks, clashes have broken out in Ukraine’s war-torn east, raising fears over a fresh outbreak of heavy fighting after a ceasefire brokered last year had raised hopes for ending the conflict.

Ukraine launches 'Crimean Platform', Russia also invited

In an exclusive interview, Emine Dzhaparova, Ukraine’s first deputy minister of foreign affairs, told EURACTIV about her country’s new initiative to keep the international community attention’s focused on the occupation of Crimea by Russia.

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