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EU Considering Omitting Putin for Now as it Weighs New Russia Sanctions

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BRUSSELS — European Union ambassadors in Brussels moved closer to consensus on a significant package of sanctions targeting broad sectors of the Russian economy and individuals on Thursday, but were debating whether to keep President Vladimir V. Putin off their list for now, diplomats who participated in or were briefed on the talks said.

The ambassadors met on Thursday morning, just hours after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and were scheduled to meet again in the afternoon to prepare for negotiations that E.U. leaders will hold in Brussels on Thursday evening about an overall response to the invasion.

Diplomats said that earlier resistance by some countries over specific sectors — for example, by Italy over luxury goods and Belgium over diamonds — had evaporated in the face of the invasion and that there was now broad consensus across the 27 member states.

The E.U.’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell Fontelles, described the proposed measures on Thursday morning as the “the harshest package of sanctions we have ever implemented.”

But a new rift emerged: A handful of member states led by Germany were advocating that the package exclude Mr. Putin for now.

Asked for comment, a German diplomat did not deny that Germany wanted to keep Mr. Putin off the latest sanctions.

The rationale for omitting him is a desire to keep channels open for dialogue with the top Russian leadership. They were considering exempting Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov for the same reason.

But other member states argued that the bloc should immediately inflict the maximum possible pain on Russia rather than hold back in hopes of renewed diplomatic dialogue.

E.U. leaders were scheduled to convene in Brussels on Thursday evening and were expected to meet through the night. The sanctions they are expected to agree on will come into effect when the legal language is published, on Friday or Saturday, diplomats said.

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