Wednesday, February 28

Head of Russian Orthodox church on EU sanctions list draft | Russia

The European Union plans to impose sanctions on the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, a long-serving Kremlin ally who has given his blessing to the war in Ukraine, according to a draft document seen by the Guardian.

Kirill, who used a sermon to support Russia’s “special peacekeeping operation” days after the invasion, now faces being added to the EU sanctions list, which already includes more than 1,000 powerful Russians, according to the draft.

He is one of 57 people who would face an EU travel ban and asset freeze under new listings being discussed by member states.

EU officials are also targeting the immediate family of Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, who was sanctioned in a previous round. Peskov’s wife, Tatiana Navka, would be added to the list through her marriage de ella, but also because of her co-ownership of property in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, according to the EU. Nikolay Peskov, 31, is said by the EU to use his father’s money, while Elizaveta Peskova, 24, is said to have acquired “lucrative positions and has been living a luxurious lifestyle thanks to her father’s connections”.

The day after the Russian invasion, Peskova posted “No to war” on her Instagram account, according to Russian media. The post was later removed.

Also expected to be added to the list is Marina Mordashova, the wife of Russia’s richest man, Alexei Mordashov, because she is said to benefit from her husband’s assets. He is a majority shareholder of Severstal, Russia’s biggest steel company, and during the pandemic rescued Tui, Europe’s largest tour operator. After Mordashov was added to the EU sanctions list in March, German authorities reported that he had transferred €1.5bn worth of shares in Tui and the gold company Nordgold to his wife from him via various offshore companies.

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The EU is also targeting several dozen military officers accused of the murder and torture of civilians in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv. Heading the list is Azatbek Omurbekov, the commander of the 64th separate motor rifle brigade of the 35th army. He is described on the EU sanctions list as “leading the actions of his military unit and nicknamed ‘butcher of Bucha’, due to his direct responsibility for him in killings, rapes and torture”.

Also on the draft list is the head of Russia’s national defense management centre, Mikhail Mizintsev, the military commander said to be responsible for the siege of Mariupol that has killed thousands of people. He is accused of orchestrating the bombardment of the strategic port city, including the bombings of a maternity hospital and a theater, an atrocity that killed hundreds of people, including children, who were sheltering there.

A handful of Ukrainians are also on the list, notably officials who the EU says have worked with Russians in the occupied cities of Kherson and Melitopol.

Kirill is named on the draft EU sanctions list under his birth name, Vladimir Gundyayev and described as “one of the most prominent supporters of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine”.

The patriarch has claimed Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine needed to be “liberated” and called the war a “religious cleansing operation”.

After Putin won a fraudulent election in 2012, Kirill described his return to the presidency as a “miracle of God”. The patriarch’s support for the war has led to a clash with the pope, who urged Kirill earlier this week not to “be Putin’s altar boy”.

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The EU intends to add 16 firms to the sanctions list, notably Russian companies that make aircraft, vehicles, parts and other technology used in war.

Under the plans, three Russian media companies, RTR, Russia-24 and TV Center International, are to have their broadcasting licenses revoked in the EU for being “instrumental in bringing forward and supporting the aggression against Ukraine” and “the destabilization of its neighbouring. countries”.

Three banks, including Russia’s largest lender, Sberbank, are to be banned from using the Swift international bank messaging system, effectively stopping them from doing business with the west.

The list of names still has to be approved by the EU’s 27 member states, who are discussing a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year.

Hungary and Slovakia, two countries that are nearly 100% dependent on Russian crude oil, have been offered a one-year extension on the ban. Budapest has said it cannot support the sanctions in their current form, while Bratislava says it needs more time to overhaul its refineries.

Meanwhile, Greece and Cyprus have said they have concerns about a plan to ban EU-flagged ships from transporting Russian crude oil to other countries that have not imposed sanctions on Russia. Insurers would also be unable to underwrite the journeys against the risk of accidents. Many other service companies, including tax consultants, PR firms and accountants, would be banned from doing business with Russia.

Despite the disagreements on the oil embargo, diplomats remain confident that an agreement can be reached by Friday or over the weekend.

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