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UK’s Hague: ‘Options open’ on Russia sanctions

March 4, 2014

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s foreign secretary said Tuesday that “our options are open” on stronger measures against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, though a leaked document seemed to suggest the U.K. had ruled out economic sanctions.

London is a key hub for Russian investment, and rich Russian buyers have helped inflate the city’s sky-high property market. That may make British officials reluctant to impose sanctions that would halt the flow of money.

A government briefing document photographed as an adviser carried it on Monday said Britain “should not support, for now, trade sanctions ... or close London’s financial center to Russians,” but would support visa restrictions and travel bans.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told lawmakers that the document “should not be taken as a guide to the views of the foreign secretary” or the decisions of the government.

“All options remain on the table, on the diplomatic and the economic side,” he said.

British and European officials have condemned Russia’s military takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region, but have suggested limited responses — an end to talks on visa liberalization and negotiations on further economic cooperation. EU leaders will to meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss possible tougher measures.

Asked in the House of Commons whether the U.K. government would freeze any Russian assets in Britain, Hague was cautious.

“We have to be legally very sure of our case to apply sanctions to individuals,” he said.

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