EU sanctions hit web sensation Crimea prosecutor, pro-Moscow rebels

EU sanctions hit web sensation Crimea prosecutor, pro-Moscow rebels
A photo of Natalia Poklonskaya posted on her Facebook fan page.

MOSCOW - Among those hit by new sanctions imposed by Brussels on pro-Russian officials are Natalya Poklonskaya, the prosecutor of Crimea who became an Internet sensation for her good looks, and a self-styled mayor of the rebel-held Ukrainian city of Slavyansk.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the hugely influential first deputy chief of Russian President Vladimir Putin's staff, and Vladimir Shamanov, a military commander who gained notoriety for his heavy-handed tactics in volatile Chechnya, were also on a new sanctions list released by the European Union.

According to the EU, as commander of the Russian Airborne Troops, Shamanov was responsible for the deployment of Russian airborne forces in Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in March.

The global community has condemned the takeover of Ukraine's Russian-speaking peninsula as annexation but Putin has said the term was inappropriate because no blood was spilled.

A Russian lawmaker responsible for the legislation facilitating the takeover of Crimea, Vladimir Pligin, and Roman Lyagin, who organised an independence referendum in Donetsk on Sunday, have also been sanctioned.

Pro-Moscow militants claimed a overwhelming majority in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk voted at the weekend to split from the ex-Soviet republic, in a vote Ukraine and the West condemned as illegal.

Following the plebescite the EU on Monday ramped up sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis, adding 13 people and two Crimean firms to an existing blacklist.

Of the 13 names on the list, Poklonskaya, the Crimean prosecutor known for her good looks and stern demeanour, is perhaps the most famous.

The uniformed 34-year-old blonde has become a web sensation around the world and images of her as a heroine of Japanese-style manga comic portraits have gone viral on the Internet.

Earlier this month Putin formally appointed Poklonskaya, who publicly condemned the Ukrainian authorities, the peninsula's top prosecutor.

Also on the sanctions list are pro-Moscow rebels from east Ukraine including Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-styled mayor of the rebel-held city of Slavyansk.

The EU has so far targeted Russians and Ukrainians blamed for compromising the country's integrity, stopping short of introducing broader punitive measures that would hit Russia's economy.

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