0421 GMT March 22, 2019
“The Russian side will not leave this unfriendly action by the European Union unanswered,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, Reuters reported.
The EU on Friday added eight more Russians to its sanctions list over a stand-off between Russia and Ukraine in the Azov Sea, including senior security service officials and military commanders that the EU accuses of preventing Ukrainian ships from reaching port.
The EU’s announcement coincided with the fifth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia after a referendum in 2014.
The relations between the two countries remain acutely strained after the Crimea issue and Moscow’s alleged support for pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine.
The EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Russian officials in relation to an incident in the Azov Sea last November, when three ships of the Ukrainian Navy crossed the Russian border, entered Russian territorial waters that were temporarily closed, and began moving toward the Kerch Strait, which serves as the entrance into the Sea of Azov. The Ukrainian vessels and their crew were detained by Russia after failing to respond to a lawful demand to stop, Sputnik wrote.
“The EU’s claim that Russia ‘broke international law’ and used unjustified force does not correspond with reality at all,” the ministry said.
“The excuse for placing our fellow countrymen on the European Union’s illegitimate sanctions lists amazes with its hypocrisy and cynicism,” it added, saying the individuals targeted were simply doing their jobs.
The EU’s decision takes the number of people blacklisted by the bloc over the crisis in Ukraine to 170, plus 44 entities.