Valentina Matviyenko, a former Russian Ambassador to Malta and currently head of Russia’s upper house of Parliament, is included in a list of officials from Russia and Ukraine who have been subjected to travel bans and asset freezes by the United States and the European Union following Sunday’s referendum in Crimea.

Some of the officials are on both the US and EU lists but Matviyenko has only been targeted by the US.

As Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Matviyenko is the third most senior official in Russia, after President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Last December Matviyenko was honoured by Malta on Republic Day by being awarded an honorary membership to the National Order of Merit in recognition of her contribution towards the enhancement of bilateral cooperation and the friendly relations between Malta and Russia.

She served as Ambassador to Malta between 1991 and 1995.

The individuals targeted by the sanctions are seen as having played an important role in the referendum, which the US and EU consider illegal. The sanctions were announced on Monday hours after Crimea’s Parliament declared the region an independent state following Sunday’s referendum, and applied to Moscow to join Russia.

The referendum to integrate Crimea with Russia was officially approved by 97 per cent of voters.