New EU Sanctions on Russia Over Ukraine Go Into Effect; U.S. Plans Similar Action

Ukraine and pro-Russian forces swap prisoners; Russia's Lavrov says nation will react appropriately.

Reuters

New European Union sanctions against Russia, designed to pressure the country to back off its conflict with Ukraine, went into effect, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying the move undermines efforts toward peace.

The U.S. was scheduled on Friday to announce its own set of sanctions, with President Barack Obama saying they would target Russia's financial, energy and defense sectors, reports say.

Meantime, late Thursday Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces exchanged prisoners, a swap overseen by international observers.

The EU and U.S. accuse the Kremlin of directly helping pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions, a charge Moscow denies, the BBC reported.

The five-month conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists has killed more than 3,000 people. A cease-fire went into effect September 5.

The BBC reported that the sanctions block the export of services to Russia's oil industry and restrict certain big Russian banks' access to loans. Another two dozen people who the EU says are "involved in actions against Ukraine's territorial integrity" were subject to an asset freeze and travel ban. Some 119 people have now been similarly sanctioned by the EU.

Lavrov was quoted by the BBC as saying that the country would react to the new sanctions "in a calm and appropriate way, first and foremost, proceeding from the need to defend our interests."

For Ukraine's part, President Petro Poroshenko said on Friday there could be no military solution to his country's crisis, Reuters reported. He said he hoped that the "very fragile" ceasefire in the east would hold, enabling him to focus on rebuilding the shattered economy.