CEOs of Russia’s largest firms to be hit by sanctions

EU is working on list of 120-130 Russians who could be subject to asset freezes and travel bans

The CEOs of Russia’s two largest firms are on a list of those who may be hit next week with European and US sanctions over the Crimea crisis, a German newspaper said today, suggesting tougher than expected measures against Russia’s elite.

Moscow shipped more troops and armour into Crimea today and repeated its threat to invade other parts of Ukraine, showing no sign of heeding Western pleas to back off from the worst East-West confrontation since the Cold War.

Russia's stock markets tumbled and the cost of insuring its debt soared on the last day of trading before pro-Moscow authorities in Crimea hold a vote to join Russia, a move all but certain to lead to US and European Union sanctions on Monday.

European officials told Reuters the EU was working on a five page list of 120-130 Russians who could be subjected to asset freezes and travel bans.


Officials were still debating whether to hit a large number of Russians when the measures take effect at the start of next week, or target a smaller number initially and expand the list if the crisis continues.

Germany's Bild newspaper reported that Alexei Miller, boss of natural gas monopoly Gazprom, and Igor Sechin, head of Russia's biggest oil firm Rosneft, would be among those targeted, along with senior ministers and Kremlin aides.

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the Bild report.

Rosneft spokesman Mikhail Leontyev said sanctions on his firm's boss would be "stupid, petty and obvious sabotage of themselves most of all. I think it will primarily affect Rosneft's business partners in the West in an extraordinary way."

Gazprom and the Kremlin declined to comment.

The Russian foreign ministry, responding to the death of at least one protester in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk, repeated president Vladimir Putin’s declaration of the right to invade to protect Russian citizens and “compatriots”.

"Russia is aware of its responsibility for the lives of compatriots and fellow citizens in Ukraine and reserves the right to take people under its protection," it said. Ukrainian health authorities say one 22-year-old man was stabbed to death and at least 15 others were being treated in hospital after clashes in Donetsk, the mainly Russian-speaking home city of Ukraine's ousted president Viktor Yanukovich.

Organisers of the anti-Moscow demonstration said the dead man was from their group. Moscow denies that its forces are intervening in Crimea, an assertion Washington ridicules as "Putin's fiction".

Journalists have seen Russian forces operating openly in their thousands over the past two weeks, driving in armoured columns of vehicles with Russian licence plates and identifying themselves to besieged Ukrainian troops as members of Russia’s armed forces.

A Reuters reporter watched a Russian warship unload trucks, troops and at least one armoured personnel carrier at Kazachaya bay near Sevastopol on Friday morning.

Trucks drove off a ramp from the Yamal 156, a large landing ship that can carry more than 300 troops and up to a dozen APCs.

US secretary of state John Kerry held talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in London in a last-ditch effort to persuade Moscow to call off the referendum in Crimea, now seen as all but inevitable.