“There was consensus that they should be on the list, but we have to assess very clearly what that means in terms of having an open connection to these two guys in future,” Mr. Rutte said.
And while Britain took long-discussed steps to penalize oligarchs on Thursday, European Union leaders, under pressure from allies to do the same, instead agreed to change the legal language in the sanctions package in order to be able to take such a step in future.
The sanctions leveled on the Russian economy by the European Union were set to hurt both sides. That is why they were harder to finalize, and why particularly difficult elements — like SWIFT, or imposing sanctions on oil and gas companies — stayed off the table.
The way Europe’s sanctions against Russia were shaping up highlighted that some E.U. countries, most prominent among them Germany and Italy, preferred an incremental approach to penalizing Mr. Putin, in part to protect a fragile post-pandemic economic recovery in Europe.
On the other side were countries neighboring Russia and Ukraine, like Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as the E.U.’s Nordic members and the Netherlands. They would prefer not to break up the sanctions into smaller packages but rather hit Mr. Putin with overwhelming economic measures that truly sting.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland spoke for many of them in a blunt statement as he arrived at the meeting in Brussels on Thursday evening.
“Talking is cheap. Enough of this cheap talking, there’s enough of naïveté around us, triviality,” he said. “We are buying as Europe, as the European Union, lots of Russian gas, lots of Russian oil. And President Putin is taking the money from us, Europeans, and he’s turning this into aggression.”
Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting.