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EU Slaps Sanctions On Russians Involved In Seizing Ukrainian Naval Vessels, Crew

Some of the Ukrainian sailors appear in court in Moscow on February 12.

BRUSSELS -- The European Union has added eight Russian officials to its sanctions list for their involvement in the seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels and their 24 crew members near the Kerch Strait in November 2018.

Moscow said the three Ukrainian Navy vessels had illegally entered Russian territorial waters, a claim denied by Kyiv and backed by much of the international community.

While adding the eight on March 15, the EU left off a high-ranking Russian military officer after failing to reach unanimity on his inclusion.

The EU imposed the sanctions after Russia seized control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and shortly thereafter begin supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine with arms and other means in a conflict that has left some 13,000 people dead since April 2014.

The EU sanctions list now includes 170 individuals and 44 entities.

Among the most senior officials added to the EU blacklist on March 15 were Sergei Stankevich, a high-ranking Federal Security Service (FSB) officer in Crimea, his deputy Andrei Shein, as well as Colonel General Aleksandr Dvornikov who is the head of the Southern Military District of the Russian armed forces.

Three naval commanders and two captains were also sanctioned.

According to several sources who spoke to RFE/RL under condition of anonymity, Admiral Gennady Medvedev, who is the deputy head of the Border Service of the FSB, was initially due to be included to the sanctions list with the other eight Russians.

Diplomats said Finland had refused to add him. When approached by RFE/RL, the Finnish permanent representative to the European Union responded, "We cannot comment individual position of any member state, neither our own, so we will not comment."

Medvedev has reportedly been involved in border-cooperation efforts between Russia and Finland. Plus, he took part in a so-called "Arctic forum of coast guards" in Finland last year.