BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union widened its sanctions net on Thursday to add 10 Syrian men to its asset freeze and travel ban list over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying they were responsible for recruiting mercenaries to fight alongside Russian forces.
The EU announced the listings as it formally unveiled new sanctions against Moscow, targeting top lender Sberbank, Russian gold and more companies and people as well as increased export controls.
“The Syrian regime provides support, including military support, for Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine,” the EU official journal said on Thursday.
Those listed include Muhammad Al-Salti, the commander-in-chief of the Palestine Liberation Army, two commanders from the pro-Syrian National Defence Forces militia, a former Syrian military officer as well as the director and co-owner of Al-Sayyad Company for Guarding and Protection Services.
The European Union says the company, operating under the name “ISIS hunters”, is supervised by Russian private military contractor Wagner Group, protects Russian interests and is active in recruiting Syrian mercenaries to Libya and Ukraine.
There are also one further commander and three businessmen on the list.
The European Union imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group in December as well as on Russian individuals and energy companies in Syria linked to the group, accusing it of clandestine operations on the Kremlin’s behalf.
The EU official journal also spelt out that the bloc will partially exempt state-owned Russian enterprises and Russian banks from sanctions to allow trade of fertilisers and food to third countries.
Some African countries have expressed concern that western sanctions could exacerbate a global food crisis, although EU officials say supply problems are the result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its blockade in the Black Sea.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Editing by William Maclean)