EU sanctions target Putin’s inner circle

Diplomats involved in the talks said that apart from Hungary, whose President Viktor Orban is a Putin admirer, and which only reluctantly agreed to the first round of sanctions, other member states are in favor of most likely to face stiffer penalties. But many have called for exceptions to protect commercial interests.

European Union leaders are due to meet in Brussels on Thursday for an emergency meeting to address those differences, and diplomats said no one was prepared to appear hesitant about an invasion, so a compromise should be found urgently.

A few European countries are preparing for an impact in their banking sectors. Italy has pushed for tougher sanctions that omit major crackdowns on Russian banks, as has Austria, whose Raiffeisen Bank International has hundreds of branches in Russia, diplomats said.

And there were also more niche issues. Italy would like to see luxury goods excluded from the new sanctions package in order to maintain exports of Russian elite’s favorite fashion items. Belgium, home of Antwerp, Europe’s largest diamond center, is pushing for gemstones to be excluded.

These kinds of indulgences, favorites of Russian elites and important to European countries that export them, were highlighted in a rare caustic tweet on Tuesday by Josep Borrell Fontelles, the bloc’s foreign policy chief bragging about EU measures .

“Gone: Shopping in Milan Partying in Saint Tropez Diamonds in Antwerp,” he wrote.

The tweet was later deleted.

The report was provided by Steven Erlanger from Munich, Oleg Matsnev From Moscow, Stephen’s Castle and Patricia Cohen from London, Jack Ewing of Shelburne, Vermont, and Gaia Pianigiani From Rome.

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