The European Union and the United States are working on new sanctions against Russia following the capture of 24 Ukrainian sailors off the coast of Crimea, Sky News has learned.
Brussels and Washington are understood to be co-ordinating their action to strengthen the effect on President Vladimir Putin’s regime, according to European sources.
“When there is common ground there is much better impact,” one source said.
Britain and a number of other EU allies are pushing for new “restrictive measures” to be announced by the European Union in the coming weeks, three sources told Sky News.
Foreign ministers from the 28 EU member states are expected to talk about the prospect of further sanctions as part of a wider debate on the situation in Ukraine during a foreign affairs council meeting in Brussels on Monday.
This follows Russia’s decision on 25 November to detain the Ukrainian sailors and their three navy vessels as they attempted to pass through the Kerch Strait from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov. The sailors remain in detention.
Moscow accuses the Ukrainians of illegally entering Russian waters, something Kiev denied.
One source said there is evidence of Russia continuing to restrict the flow of ships through that stretch of water, with signs that the volume of shipping has fallen over the past two months.
There is an awareness in Western capitals that their response to Russia’s actions in the Azov Sea has so far been weak, allowing what amounted to a violation of the international law of the sea to go unpunished.
There is a risk that this could embolden Russia to continue to disrupt shipping in the area unless action is taken.
Initially certain EU member states had hoped that the seizure of the Ukrainian sailors and vessels could be resolved diplomatically with the Kremlin.
However there is no indication that Moscow plans to release the personnel.
“There is no sign they are willing to de-escalate,” a source said.
Talks are understood to be under way at a tactical, working-group level within the EU to draw up new sanctions, which will target those individuals responsible for the Kerch Strait incident, sources said.
“Some more names, asset freezes”, a diplomatic source added.
A final decision has yet been made by the EU on the sanctions but this is expected to happen in the coming weeks.
“What might happen is we have a political green light followed in the coming weeks with actual action,” an EU source said.