European Union foreign ministers have hinted that any disruption of elections in Ukraine on May 25 could trigger new economic sanctions against Russia.
At a meeting in Brussels they agreed to add 13 people and two companies to the existing sanctions list.
The EU has previously imposed asset freezes and visa bans on 48 Russians and Ukrainians following the annexation of Crimea.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain wanted the EU to intensify preparations for further sanctions.
“We will keep up the pressure on the Russians and we have decided today not only to continue to prepare the third tier of sanctions but to be clear that it is the attitude and behaviour of all parties including Russia towards the holding of the elections on May 25, that will be a major determinant of whether such sanctions are necessary,” said Hague.
EU member states are divided over how far to go, though. Some fear tough sanctions could undermine their own economies and provoke Russian retaliation.
Euronews correspondent Sandor Zsiros said:
“Russia avoided serious economic sanctions this time as well – only a few names were added to the EU list. But the foreign ministers agreed that they will decide quickly about the economic punishment if Russia tries to influence or prevent Ukraine’s presidential elections.”