BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union may go even further than the United States in hitting Russian banks with sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, curbing their ability to raise fresh funds, reports said Thursday.
As member state ambassadors to the EU began a meeting to review the next step, the Financial Times said they would look at proposals to ban Russian banks from selling new shares on European markets.
Citing an options memo, the Financial Times said the new measures would go even further than tougher US sanctions announced last week which targeted only two Russian banks -- Gazprombank and VEB -- since they would apply to all lenders with more than 50 percent public ownership.
EU foreign ministers agreed Tuesday to speed up sanctions against Russia and to examine tougher measures, including in the defence sector, after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in a region of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia rebels.
They said this would involve adding to a list of individuals hit with visa ban and asset freeze sanctions "entities and persons, including from the Russian Federation," for their role in stoking the crisis and aiding Russia's annexation of Crimea in March.
They also agreed to finalise work on tougher, sectoral measures and to "present proposals for taking action, including on access to capital markets, defence, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector."
The 28 EU ambassadors began their meeting Thursday under tight security, an EU source said.
The additional list of individuals sanctions targets would likely be announced Friday, the source said.
However, immediate agreement on the wider measures envisaged by foreign ministers on Tuesday was unlikely.
"I cannot imagine a decision today ... that will take a few days more," the source said, with another ambassadors meeting due next week.
So far Brussels has hit 72 Russian and Ukrainian figures with asset freezes or visa bans but has failed to agree tougher measures given that some member states, such as Italy and Germany, have major economic ties with Russia they do not want to see harmed.
The shooting down of flight MH17 however has upped the pressure, with Britain, Sweden, the Baltic states and Poland all urging a much tougher line.