European foreign ministers slapped sanctions on Russian mercenary outfit Wagner on Monday and drew up what they warned would be an unprecedented economic response to any military assault on Ukraine. Following a meeting of G7 ministers in Liverpool at the weekend, where the US and major allies warned the Kremlin of “massive” consequences if it invades, the 27 EU ministers met Monday in Brussels. They first approved a list of eight names and three companies associated with Russia’s private military company Wagner to be added immediately to existing sanctions regimes. Next, they were to agree terms to signal their readiness to impose huge new measures targeting Russia’s economy if a troop build-up near the Ukrainian border leads to direct military action. The ministers were also expected to discuss whether or not European capitals should join a US-led diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, to protest alleged Chinese rights abuses. “Yesterday we had the G7,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, arriving at the talks. “There was a strong agreement, position in order to have a strong stance behind Ukraine, defending their sovereignty and territorial integrity. “We will send a clear signal that any aggression against Ukraine will have a high cost for Russia,” he said, insisting that Brussels will coordinate any action with London and Washington. Lithuania’s Gabrielius Landsbergis stressed that the sanctions threat was a deterrent but that, if they proved necessary, they would have to be on an “unprecedented scale”. The meeting on Monday was the first EU foreign affairs council for Germany’s foreign minister, AnnalenaBaerbock, a Green politician who came to office last week in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s new coalition. Berlin holds one of the most important cards in the sanctions deck, if it decides that President Vladimir Putin’s actions warrant blocking the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Asked about the threat to Ukraine before heading to Brussels, Baerbock told ZDF television that “in the event of further escalation, this gas pipeline could not come into service.” Separately, in a sign of Brussels’ determination to address what it sees as the Kremlin’s efforts to “destabilise” Ukraine, Syria, Libya and several African countries, sanctions were slapped on Wagner. Wagner is said to be financed by 60-year-old Saint Petersburg businessman YevgenyPrigozhin, who has already been hit with EU and US sanctions for destabilising Libya and meddling in US elections. In addition to the Wagner firm and three linked companies, the sanctions list targeted eight individuals, including the group’s alleged commander. Those sanctioned included: Dmitry Utkin, a 51-year-old former lieutenant colonel in Russian military intelligence, once decorated by Putin and now said to be Wagner’s commander and responsible for mercenary operations in Ukraine. Utkin is accused of extrajudicial killings, including allegedly ordering a Syrian deserter to be tortured to death and filmed. Alexander Kuzentsov, a 44-year-old Russian said to lead Wagner’s 1st Attack and Reconnaissance Company under the call sign “Ratibor”, accused of threatening the peace and security of Libya. Retired colonel Andrei Roshev, 68, a founding executive director of Wagner now commanding mercenary troops in Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime under the call sign “Siedoy”. The talks on Monday will also help prepare for the EU leaders’ meeting with the “Eastern Partnership” — Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan — on Wednesday. Belarus left the group after the EU accused strongman Alexander Lukashenko of rigging his re-election, but opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is in Brussels. The EU wants to present its eastern neighbours with a united front against what it sees as Russia’s destabilising meddling in the region, a senior European diplomat told AFP. But against China — accused of persecuting the Uyghur minority, threatening Taiwan and cracking down on freedoms in Hong Kong — there is less agreement between EU capitals. The United States and some of Washington’s allies have announced that they will not send diplomats or top officials to the Winter Olympics in Beijing, in protest against China’s actions. But Europe is divided. “I am always in favour of a European approach, but sometimes it is hard to find,” admitted Landsbergis, whose government is in dispute with China over the opening of a Taiwanese mission in Vilnius. His Luxembourg counterpart, Jean Asselborn, said a diplomatic boycott would not be helpful. “I share France’s position,” he said. French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that a purely diplomatic boycott would be “a very small and symbolic measure”.