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Including Russian singer Kobzon in EU blacklist discredits Europeans — official

Russia's culture minister said Moscow is not preparing a response to the new EU sanctions as Europe has no performers the level of Iosif Kobzon, the singer included in the EU sanctions list

MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. Including Russian singer Iosif Kobzon in the EU blacklist of sanctioned individuals and entities discredits European democracy and demonstrates double standards towards artists, Russian president's special envoy for International Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoy told TASS on Tuesday.

"I understand that, as a special representative of the Russian president, I must remain in the framework of diplomatic terminology. But I love Iosif Davidovych [Kobzon] very much as an outstanding singer and person who has done incredibly much for the development of Russian culture. And in this step made by the EU [putting Kobzon on blacklist], may my colleagues forgive me, I see great foolishness. After such ‘demonstrative whipping’, talks about democracy and humanism sound delirious," Shvydkoy said.

Such sanctions can be introduced against politicians, but it is incomprehensible to blacklist artists and journalists, he noted.

"Kobzon did not call for killing or punishing anyone, he is a man of art. He came [to Donbass] and sans songs. Even if he sang an anthem of a self-proclaimed republic, he sang a song, he did not shoot anyone from a machine gun. Such a step by the EU discredits Europeans and all their talks about the democratic right of a person to express his ideas. Talking about infringing on artists’ rights, why did the European society stood for Pussy Riot? Kobzon did not do half of what the girls from this group did. I am deeply concerned with such double and triple standards," Shvydkoy said.

Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinisky said Russia is not preparing a response to the EU move to expand its blacklist.

"There is no sense to peddle, there are no performers of Kobzon’s level there," Medinsky said.

EU extends blacklist

On Monday, February 16, the EU published an extended blacklist of sanctioned individuals and entities. The updated "blacklist" was published in the EU Official Journal and came into force from the moment of publication. The number of sanctioned individuals has thus reached 151 citizens of Russia and Ukraine. The number of sanctioned companies now stands at 37.

Nineteen individuals and 9 entities were added to the EU blacklist on February 16. Among them are Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov, First Deputy Defense Minister Arkady Bakhin, singer Iosif Kobzon and State Duma deputy, head of the Moscow department of Russia’s Communist Party Valery Rashkin. Also on the list is head of the main operational department of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces General Lieutenant Andrey Kartapolov.

Fourteen representatives of DPR and LPR leadership, along with leaders of the self-defense forces in east Ukraine, made it on the extended "blacklist" as well.

All blacklisted individuals are banned from entering the EU, and their financial assets in European banks are frozen.

The foreign ministers of the EU member-countries approved the expansion of the blacklist for Russia and eastern Ukraine at a meeting on February 9. However, the implementation of the measure was postponed to February 16 in order not to interfere with the Minsk negotiations in the "Normandy format." At a summit of heads of governments of EU countries on February 12, the leaders of the European countries did not make any changes to the decision.

Reaction to extended sanctions list

The EU sanctions list may be cancelled after "adequate people" come to power in Ukraine, finance minister of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) Yevgeny Manuylov, who has put on the "blacklist," said on Monday.

"I am sure that the time will come, and the current Ukrainian authorities will be replaced by adequate people. It means that the general situation will change as well. Then, this list [EU blacklist] will be cancelled," LuganskInformCenter quoted Manuylov as saying.

The minister also stressed that he never went abroad and is not going to do so in the future. "I have enough work in the Luhansk Republic," he noted.

State Duma deputy Valery Rashkin from the Communist Party said Monday he is proud to be included in the updated "blacklist" of individuals sanctioned by the EU. "I am proud to be included in the list, very honorable [list], I think," Rashkin told TASS.

The deputy said he considers the EU sanctions list to be "the list of fighters against fascism." "History will put everything in place, just like it happened in 1945," he stressed. Rashkin said he actively supports "comrades" from Donbas, in particular, with humanitarian aid.

EU’s updated blacklist of sanctioned individuals and entities is Brussels’ response to January’s shelling of east Ukraine’s Mariupol, Russia’s Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said on Monday. However, it is still unclear who was responsible for the shelling, Chizhov noted.

"The events in Mariupol were announced as a reason for expanding the ‘blacklist’. The question arises: did someone conduct an investigation and establish the guilty party in the shelling of Mariupol? My question to the EU has just hung in the air, the same way the question about July’s sanctions [sectoral economic restrictions were introduced against Russia by EU on July 31, 2014] hung the air, adopted on the wave of an emotional outburst in connection with crashed Malaysian Boeing," Chizhov noted.

There are also no answers to questions about "those guilty in tragedies in Odessa and Mariupol last year," the ambassador stressed. "The question of snipers in Kiev’s Maidan [Independence Square] is still without an answer, even after a year," Chizhov concluded.

The EU prefers not to use the word "sanctions" in its documents because only the UN Security Council has authority to impose sanctions, Chizhov stressed. "In their documents, European officials try not to use the word ‘sanctions’ at all. And that is right because it is a legally vulnerable position. Sanctions can only be imposed by the UN Security Council. Everything else represents unlawful unilateral restrictive measures," Chizhov said.