BRUSSELS, March 21 (UPI) -- European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said Friday the European Union was obligated to stop Russia from violating Ukraine's sovereignty.
The European Council announced it added 12 people to a list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes for violating Ukraine's territorial integrity. The move followed Thursday's vote by Russia's lower house of parliament to approve the annexation of Crimea, a peninsula of Ukraine.
"Sanctions are not a question of retaliation; they are a foreign policy tool," Van Rompuy said in a statement. "Our goal is to stop Russian action against Ukraine, to restore Ukraine's sovereignty."
The U.S. and Russian governments Thursday exchanged tit-for-tat sanctions over Ukraine, a former Soviet republic. The European Council's decision Friday brings the total number of people subject to EU sanctions to 33.
A November decision by the Ukrainian government to suspend efforts to sign free trade and association agreements with the EU sparked widespread national protests that led to the ouster of Ukraine's pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. The Russian military intervened in parts of eastern Ukraine before Crimea's annexation.
"This is the democratic choice Ukraine has made," Barroso said in a statement.