UK & World News
Ukraine: EU Hits Russia With New Sanctions
The European Union has imposed a new round of sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians as part of attempts to pressure Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.
Among the 13 people facing asset freezes and visa bans are President Vladimir Putin's first deputy chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin and the commander of Russian paratroopers Vladimir Shamanov.
Two pro-Russian separatists who helped organise independence votes in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk were also onáthe list,áas well as Crimean companies PJSC Chernomorneftegaz and Feodosia.
The sanctions, criticised by Russia, are in response to Moscow's annexation of Crimea and its support for Russian-speaking separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The EU had already imposed asset freezes and visa bans on 48 Russians and Ukrainians, and the US has introduced similar sanctions.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian insurgents in theáDonetsk and Luhansk regions have declared independence following a vote on Sunday and those in Donetsk are asking to join Russia.
It comes after Russia said the outcome of the referendum should be implemented "in a civilised manner without violence".
Voters in Donetsk and Luhansk cast ballots at the weekend on whether to declare their areas independent, but with links to Moscow. The contentious poll was ahead of national presidential elections scheduled for May 25.
Pro-Russian rebels claimed victory in the vote, which has been condemned by a host of countries, including Britain, and dismissed as a "criminal farce" by the government in Kiev.
Organisers said 89% of those who cast ballots in the Donetsk region and about 96% of those who turned out in Luhansk voted for sovereignty.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking after attending an EU meeting in Brussels, said: "We're very clear about the so-called referendums that finished yesterday in some of the eastern regions of Ukraine.
"These do not have credibility or international acceptance or recognition. I think the votes in the Eurovision Song Contest really were more credible and carried greater weight."
But the Kremlin said it "respects the will of people" and condemned the use of force against civilians.
Moscow is pushing to include eastern regions in negotiations on Ukraine's future.
This suggests Russia prefers a political rather than a military solution to its worst stand-off with the West since the Cold War.
Russia accuses the EU of helping the interim Ukrainian government come to power in what Moscow says was a coup in February.
The then-president Viktor Yanukovych fled the country after three months of protests over his decision to reject an EU trade pact and turn to Moscow.