European sanctions target Putin’s inner circle

Diplomats involved in the negotiations said that with the exception of Hungary, whose President Viktor Orban admires Putin, and which only reluctantly agreed to the first set of sanctions, other member states are often subject to heavier sanctions. 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 deal with those differences, and diplomats said no one was willing to appear hesitant in the face of an invasion, so a compromise must be found urgently.

Few European countries are preparing to make an impact in their banking sectors. Diplomats said Italy is calling for tougher sanctions to undo the crackdown on Russian banks, as did Austria, whose Raiffeisen International Bank maintains hundreds of branches in Russia.

And there were more niche concerns, too. Italy would like to see luxury goods excluded from the new sanctions package, in order to preserve the fashion exports favored by the Russian elite. Belgium, home to Antwerp, Europe’s largest diamond center, is pushing for the gem to be excluded.

These types of indulgences, favored among Russian elites and important to the European countries that issue them, were highlighted in a rare scathing tweet on Tuesday by Josep Borrell Fontelles, the bloc’s foreign policy chief who boasts of EU actions.

“No more shopping in Milan,” he wrote, “celebrating at St Tropez Diamonds in Antwerp.”

The tweet was later deleted.

Contribute to reporting Stephen Erlanger from Munich Oleg Matsnev from Moscow, Stephen’s Castle And the Patricia Cohen from London, Jack Ewing From Shelburne, VT, and Gaia Pianigiani from Rome.

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