EU slaps sanctions on five Russian banks

The European Union has sanctioned five Russian banks to protest Moscow’s intervention in restive eastern Ukraine.

The EU said it is limiting the banks’ access to European capital markets, which could further impede the already weak Russian economy that some analysts say is sliding toward a recession.

The 28-nation EU bloc called for the sanctions earlier in the week and named the financial institutions Thursday: Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, as well as Gazprombank, Rosselkhozbank, Vnesheconombank and VTB Bank.

Russia’s state-owned banks issued debt worth more than $21 billion last year, nearly half of it placed on European markets.

The effect of the sanctions was not immediately clear, however, because the EU said the subsidiaries of the five banks in Europe are exempted from the restrictions.

In another setback for the Russian economy, Europe’s top human rights court Thursday ordered Moscow to pay more than $2.5 billion to former shareholders of the defunct oil giant Yukos. A decade ago, Russia seized the company that was once owned by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Just days ago, the shareholders won a $50 billion judgment at The Hague.