The bloc imposed sanctions on Russian private military company Wagner Group, as well as on three other entities and individuals, including former Russian military intelligence officers accused of mercenary work in Ukraine.
European Union foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions on targets linked to the Russian private military company Wagner, accused of acting to destabilise Ukraine and parts of Africa.
Wagner was targeted with an asset freeze, along with eight individuals and three firms, diplomats said on Monday, accusing the group of working on behalf of the Kremlin in conflict zones.
"Wagner is a Russian private military company used to destabilise security in Europe and in its neighbourhood, notably in Africa," one European diplomat said.
Among those targeted, the EU blacklisted Dimitriy Utkin, a former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer, saying he was the founder of the Wagner Group and responsible for "coordinating and planning operations for the deployment of Wagner Group mercenaries in Ukraine".
The sanctions list was drawn up by EU officials and unanimously approved by foreign ministers, who met earlier on Monday to discuss various world crises and prepare Thursday's summit of European leaders.
The asset freezes and visa bans were due to come into force later on Monday when they appear in the EU's official journal.
Meddling in conflict zones
The Wagner Group has been deployed in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine since 2014.
The US Defense Department considers the private mercenary company a proxy force for the Russian state.
The European ministers were also discussing a much larger package of potential economic sanctions against Russia, to be held in reserve to deter any threat from Moscow to directly invade Ukraine.