BRUSSELS, May 12 (RAPSI) – The foreign ministers of EU member states have approved sanctions against two Crimean companies and 13 individuals over the situation in Ukraine, a diplomatic source in the EU told RIA Novosti on Monday.

Since March, the US and EU have imposed targeted sanctions against Russian officials, freezing their assets and banning visas, as well as against 17 Russian companies, over the country’s reunification with the former Ukrainian republic of Crimea.

Crimea, a largely Russian-speaking republic within Ukraine, was part of Russia until Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an address to federal and regional officials that the decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional standards of the time.

Crimea moved for independence from Ukraine after having refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new government that came to power following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February.

On March 17, President Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as an independent state. The same day, the leaders of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and Putin signed a treaty on the unification of Crimea with Russia.