EU states have agreed to freeze any European assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, as Ukraine's leader pleaded for faster and more forceful sanctions to punish Russia's invasion of his country.

The move against Mr Putin and his top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, came as envoys of the EU's 27 member states agreed on a new wave of measures - their second this week - to hit Russia's elite and thwart operations of 70% of the country's banking system.

"We are now listing President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov as well," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said as she joined her EU counterparts to agree on the new sanctions.

"They are responsible for the deaths of innocent people in Ukraine, and for trampling on the international system. We, as Europeans, do not accept that."

A senior EU diplomat said that although the Russian leaders may not have extensive assets in Europe, the move against them personally was "a politically important signal".

In a statement, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said: "On behalf of Ireland I made the case for the inclusion of SWIFT in a further package of sanctions expected to be agreed in the coming days."

, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, known as SWIFT, is a messaging system used by almost all financial institutions across the world. Banks use the system to send and receive money transfer orders or information.

It has been the focus of much talks in recent days as countries discuss sanctions against Russia .

Minister Coveney has said he is in no doubt that war crimes are being committed in Ukraine but said a massive package of sanctions will be effective.

Amid criticism of the EU for stopping short of introducing the most punitive sanction - banning Russia from the international SWIFT system for transferring finance - Minister Coveney said many countries including Ireland would like to have gone further than what was has been agreed.

He revealed that a third set of sanctions that will include SWIFT is likely to be brought forward by the EU in the coming days.

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EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Mr Putin now joins only two other world leaders sanctioned by the bloc: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus.

Mr Borrell said the latest round of sanctions could be followed by a third, though this would only come if it was needed.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Europe to act more quickly and forcefully in imposing sanctions on Moscow, accusing western allies of politicking as Moscow's forces advanced on Kyiv.

"You still can stop this aggression. You have to act swiftly," he said, adding that banning Russians from entering the EU, cutting Moscow off from the SWIFT payments system and an oil embargo should all be on the table.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

The EU ministers' agreement on comprehensive sanctions means the bloc has joined the United States and other Western nations in curbing Russia's access to key technologies and financing.

The EU's measures will also target Russian elites and make it tougher for diplomats to travel, but the bloc opted not to curb Russian energy imports, or - after objections from Germany and Italy, among others - to cut Russia off from SWIFT.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, hosting a meeting of EU counterparts in Paris to discuss the economic impact, said removing Russia from SWIFT remained an option, but only as a "financial nuclear weapon" of last resort.

He said some EU countries - but not France - have reservations about such a step, and the European Central Bank was expected to deliver an analysis "in the coming hours" on the consequences if it was taken.

Ms Baerbock said the SWIFT option risked hurting individuals, such as those trying to send money to relatives in Russia, "whereas those people who are responsible for the bloodshed will still be able to do their bank business".

Sanctions will 'hit Russia hard'

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach had said that Ireland was in favour of freezing the assets of Mr Putin and Mr Lavrov.

He said the sanctions agreed by him and other EU leaders early this morning will not halt what is happening in Ukraine but will "hit hard" at Russia and its economy.

Mr Martin said it was also important to be honest with people that there will be a price to pay for European economies.

"That is a consequence of Putin's actions, not what we are doing. We have to stand up for our values and principles and that means sanctions that will impact not just on Russian but on EU countries as well."

Speaking in Brussels, Mr Martin reiterated that Ireland favoured the strongest possible form of sanctions.

But asked about criticism that the measures did not go far enough, the Taoiseach said it was important not to lose sight of the "severe nature" of the overall sanctions package.

"Anything that was decided last night is not going to stop the attack that is now under way. It's very clear now that President Putin has been planning this for some time, if you read what Putin is saying, he wants to restore that empire.

"The rationale and logic of President Putin that underpins this attack has nothing go to do with SWIFT or anything else. What he is doing is reckless, irresponsible and morally wrong. President Putin has decided on this action."