EU leaders meeting today (20 March) need to adopt more decisive sanctions against Moscow, because the Russian authorities clearly show they are unimpressed by "the very shy sanctions adopted so far, which do not produce any kind of result", the Ukrainian ambassador to the EU Kostiantyn Yelisieiev told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.
Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, born in 1970, is a career diplomat. He has previously worked in France and served as deputy representative of Ukraine to the EU. He has held the position of deputy foreign affairs minister since 2007.
He was speaking to EurActiv’s senior editor Georgi Gotev.
Do you fear that Russia will take aim at Eastern Ukraine, after it invaded and annexed Crimea?
To be honest, I hate being asked this question. I don’t want to speculate on this. Putin is unpredictable. I can tell you that the EU has to remain united enough to stall this act of aggression. They need to show a resolute and unambiguous reaction vis-à-vis what is going on and to eliminate the threat from the Russian authorities. EU sanctions need to be quicker and more decisive. What they are doing now is a kind of mosquito bite. That’s it.
Do you think EU leaders need to decide on stage three of sanctions?*
As soon as possible.
Even during the summit?
Yes. And they need to be decisive and creative enough, to make use of their entire arsenal to stop these violations, which are not only violations of all possible international and bilateral agreements, but an attempt to change the geopolitical order. Because the Russian authorities clearly show that they are not impressed by the very shy sanctions adopted so far, which do not produce any kind of result.
Or at least have prompted mockery. The Russian parliament said that all the 373 MPs who ratified Crimea’s annexation wanted to be in the sanction list.
Exactly. What I want to repeat is that the best sanctions against the Russian authorities is to show clear-cut unity, solidarity and resolution of the EU in particular vis-à-vis the Russian aggressor. No hesitance, no business-as-usual, no appeasement to the aggressor. Because the Russian leadership will go as far as the international community, including the EU, would allow it to.
This means that other countries like Moldova could be threatened, perhaps even EU members as well?
I have no comment.
Speaking about sanctions again, should the next sanctions target Mr. Putin personally?
It’s better to ask this question to EU leaders. I repeat: the EU should not show weakness or hesitance in the current situation. I’m saying this because we hear speculations that there is no 100% unity on whether sanctions should be introduced and what kind of sanctions should be introduced. The EU should understand clearly that if there is no peace and stability, to speak about the selfish interest of trade and economic development, about economic growth, will be irrelevant in this situation. No peace – no economic development. Everybody should understand it very clearly. And the European Union should clearly show in practical deeds that European values prevail over trade, economic and energy interests. This is a real litmus test for the EU.
How important is the signature of the political chapter of the Association Agreement?
At least we will start to do something. The signature of the political part is an important signal from the EU of support of the current Ukrainian government, its program of activity and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of my country. Let me inform you that in this political part the EU will provide Ukraine political guarantees of territorial integrity and inviolability of its borders. That’s why it’s very important that we sign these political chapters, and I hope that very soon we will sign the trade and economic part.
After the elections?
The date should be agreed by the two sides. It’s better to ask the EU when they are ready to sign. But we do hope very much it would be signed soon.
* According to the 6 March EU summit decisions, the first stage of sanctions was a suspension of EU-Russia talks on visa liberalisation and on a new basic bilateral agreement. The second stage took place after the Crimea referendum, when EU foreign ministers agreed on 17 March to impose visa restrictions and asset freezes on 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials for their roles in the events leading to referendum which paved the way for Russia's annexation of Crimea. The list includes three Russian military commanders in Crimea, and districts bordering on Ukraine. [see list on page 12-13 of the EU Official Journal]. Stage three consists of economic sanctions, although little detail is provided in the remarks by Council President Herman Van Rompuy which replaced the usual summit conclusions.