Nine locals involved in November’s rebel elections in east Ukraine have been blacklisted by the European Union. The decision was announced on December 10.

Those blacklisted include Leonid Pasechnik, named as the rebel head in Luhansk. His Donetsk counterpart, Denis Pushilin, was blacklisted in 2014 as one of the initial leaders of the Russia-backed revolt. Any assets they have in the bloc are also frozen, as are those of a further 44 entities.

But Brussels is under mounting pressure to do more – to take action against Moscow over the latest flare-up of tensions in the Azov Sea.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin asked the EU’s 28 foreign ministers in Brussels to step up sanctions against Moscow but the bloc is deeply divided on Russia and is not seen acting swiftly, if at all.

Instead, it will look at offering more assistance to Ukraine, which had its Black Sea peninsula of Crimea annexed by Russia in 2014 and then saw Moscow back separatists in the industrial east.

The ministers discussed with Klimkin “the support of the European Union to Ukraine, to Ukrainian people, to territorial integrity of the country”, said the bloc’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini.

According to Reuters, Klimkin said he asked the EU to push for the release of Ukrainian sailors held by Russia after the incident off Crimea in late November and to consider setting up an international monitoring mechanism to ensure freedom of navigation in the Kerch Strait.

“I’ve asked about different types of sanctions,” Klimkin said, adding he had proposed options from targeting more individuals to hitting Russian ports and assets in Azov Sea.