EU Sanctions Ex-Ukrainian President as Crisis in Crimea Continues
The European Union has frozen the assets of 18 high-ranking officials of the former Ukrainian government, including ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
The 28-nation bloc announced the names of those targeted by the sanctions early Thursday, after reaching a decision the night before to impose the punishments on those responsible for embezzlement of state funds.
Mr. Yanukovych's son, his former justice minister and several other government ministers are also among those whose assets have been frozen. Mr. Yanukovych fled Ukraine last month after protests over his decision to accept an economic aid package from Russia turned deadly.
Meanwhile, another round of international diplomacy aimed at easing the military crisis in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula will take place Thursday. Leaders of the EU nations will meet in Brussels to consider possible sanctions against Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet again with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Rome Thursday. Kerry held a series of discussions with Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ukranian interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia.
Lavrov and Deshchytsia did not meet face-to-face during Wednesday's flurry of negotiations, and Kerry said he had not expected such a meeting to occur.
Crimean Parliament Votes to Join Russia
Lawmakers in the embattled Ukrainian region of Crimea have voted to join Russia, in a move likely to further escalate tensions.
Thursday's vote by the Moscow-backed Crimean parliament comes as European Union leaders gather for an emergency summit in Brussels to discuss how to pressure Russia to back down from its military incursion into Crimea. U.S. lawmakers are also meeting Thursday to discuss potential economic sanctions against Russia.
The government of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula with a majority Russian population, said Thursday it is scheduling a referendum on joining Russia for March 16. Russian President Vladimir Putin is being asked to consider the appeal.
The Reuters news agency quotes Ukraine's economy minister ((Pavlo Sheremeta)) as saying the referendum on Crimea's status is "unconstitutional."
Crimea's move to leave Ukraine is likely to shake up efforts toward a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.