EU Sanctions Russians, Syrians Over Use of Chemical Weapons

The bloc's foreign ministers slap travel bans and asset freezes on nine people blamed for a nerve agent attack in Britain and a Syrian research center for chemical weapons

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini at a press conference, Brussels, January 21, 2019.

The European Union is imposing sanctions on Russians blamed for a nerve agent attack in Britain and a Syrian research center as the bloc steps up its action against the use of chemical weapons.

EU foreign ministers on Monday slapped travel bans and asset freezes on over a dozen people and on Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center.

Five of those targeted are linked to the Syrian center's activities. The four Russians on the list are the two men accused of planting the nerve agent in Salisbury last March and their superiors, the head and deputy head of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence unit.

The ministers said in a statement that the sanctions move "contributes to the EU's efforts to counter the proliferation and use of chemical weapons, which poses a serious threat to international security."

Among those sanctioned were 11 businessmen and five companies blamed for backing President Bashar Assad's government.

EU foreign ministers imposed travel bans and asset freezes on them, saying they "are involved in luxury estate development and other regime-backed projects, and as such support and/or benefit from the Syrian regime."

Monday's move in Brussels means the EU sanctions list now includes 270 people and 72 "entities," which are usually companies, organizations or agencies.

The EU began imposing sanctions on Assad and his supporters in 2011. They are reviewed every year.

The measures include an oil embargo, investment restrictions, a freeze on Syrian central bank assets held in the EU, and export bans on equipment that could be used to crack down on civilians.