Tags: Ukraine | Russia | crisis | EU | sanction

EU Leaders Threaten New Russia Sanctions over Ukraine

Tuesday, 27 January 2015 06:59 AM

European Union leaders have tasked their foreign ministers to consider tough new sanctions against Russia when they meet Thursday in response to a bloody upsurge in fighting blamed on Moscow.

In a rare joint statement on Tuesday, the 28 leaders voiced concern over what they said was Russian support for pro-Moscow rebels who have made large gains in eastern Ukraine and targeted the key port city of Mariupol.

"We condemn the killing of civilians during the indiscriminate shelling of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on 24 January 2015. We note evidence of continued and growing support given to the separatists by Russia, which underlines Russia's responsibility," they said.

"In view of the worsening situation we ask the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council to assess the situation and to consider any appropriate action, in particular on further restrictive measures, aiming at a swift and comprehensive implementation of Minsk agreements".

EU leaders would review the situation at their next summit in Brussels on February 12, the statement added.

Under Brussels rules the foreign ministers will task the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, with drawing up new sanctions, which would then have to be approved by the leaders.

The largely ignored Minsk peace plan dating from September has failed to stop a conflict which has now claimed around 5,100 lives since March, with fighting now as bad as ever following a quieter period over the Christmas-New Year holiday.

The EU has imposed a series of sanctions since Russia annexed Crimea in March.

It first slapped asset freezes and travel bans on Crimean, Ukrainian rebel and Russian figures, including some close to Putin. The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July then stung Brussels into adopting much tougher economic sanctions, hitting the country's defence, energy and finance sectors.

After the Mariupol attack on Saturday, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini announced the extraordinary meeting of European foreign ministers to map out the bloc's response to the latest violence.

Mogherini last week found herself in hot water after suggesting the EU should take a softer stance with Russia, sparking a sharp response from those who believe only a tough line will sway Moscow.

EU president Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, took a notably harder tack against Russia than his diplomatic chief at the weekend.

"Once again, appeasement encourages the aggressor to greater acts of violence," Tusk tweeted after the Mariupol attacks. "Time to step up our policy based on cold facts, not illusions.".

Many of the EU's newer members are from eastern Europe and deeply suspicious of Russian motives, fearing that their former Cold War master wants to reassert its influence.

They have consistently backed tougher sanctions against Russia but some EU states, such as Germany and Italy, have been reluctant to go too far for fear of damaging important economic and political ties.

The latest fighting and Russian President Vladimir Putin's continued defiance has however put the EU on the spot.

Putin on Monday ridiculed the Ukrainian army as NATO's "foreign legion" aimed at containing Russia, repeating a consistent theme that it is the West which is at fault, not Moscow.

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg dismissed Putin's jibe "as nonsense," charging that Russia had massively stepped up support for the rebels instead of meeting its Minsk commitments.

In eastern Ukraine Tuesday, continued fighting left at least nine soldiers dead and 29 wounded 29, Kiev said.


© AFP 2018

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Tuesday, 27 January 2015 06:59 AM
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