BRUSSELS, March 21 (Reuters) - European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to widen the list of Russian officials subject to personal sanctions over Moscow's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine and asked the European Commission to prepare for broader economic sanctions if the crisis escalates.
Merkel said the EU was ready to support Ukraine's new government financially, provided it reached a deal with the International Monetary Fund, oh which she said talks had made substantial progress and a deal was expected soon.
She told a news conference after the first day of an EU summit in Brussels that the EU was prepared to send an observer mission to Ukraine but would prefer the pan-European security watchdog OSCE to send monitors if Russia will agree on a mandate.
Merkel declined to say how many names would be added to the EU blacklist of people subject to visa bans and asset freezes on Friday but said they were of the same level as the 21 mid-ranking Russian and Crimean officials sanctioned last week.
(Writing by Paul Taylor)