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04/12/2016

EU summit to threaten Russia with tougher sanctions

Global Europe

EU summit to threaten Russia with tougher sanctions

Left to right: Matteo Renzi, Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Mark Rutte in Ypres yesterday [The Council of the European Union]

EU leaders will urge Russia today (27 June) to stop the flow of weapons and militants across its border with Ukraine and will threaten tougher sanctions, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.

EU officials said it was unlikely however that the leaders would actually give the go-ahead to new sanctions at the summit, when they will be briefed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that progress in Ukraine after nearly a week of a ceasefire “has not yet been so clear […] as I would have hoped”.

“We will talk about how much further we should go on sanctions or how far there is progress in the coming hours. That can only be decided tomorrow in the light of the report by the Ukrainian president,” she told reporters at Ypres, where the first day of the summit was held.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to Poroshenko’s peace plan would decide whether the United States and Europe step up sanctions.

So far, the EU has imposed limited measures, targeting 61 people in Russia and Ukraine with asset freezes and travel bans, as well as two energy companies in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, taken over by Moscow earlier this year.

The EU is divided about going further and imposing tough economic sanctions on Russia, with member states wary of provoking retaliation from the EU’s biggest energy supplier.

The 28 EU leaders will throw their weight behind Poroshenko’s peace plan and “take note” of the decision by the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament to retract a law allowing Russian forces to intervene in Ukraine, the draft statement said.

Ceasefire

The summit will voice regret that the ceasefire “while being respected by the Ukrainian authorities, has not led to the full cessation of military hostilities”.

“Therefore, it calls upon all parties to genuinely commit to the implementation of the peace plan and to cement the cessation of the military activities,” the draft statement said.

More than 420 people, including Ukrainian servicemen, rebels and civilians, are estimated to have been killed in the fighting in Ukraine, the United Nations said this week.

Ukrainian separatists agreed yesterday to resume peace talks to end the conflict in the east, but Poroshenko warned he might not extend a ceasefire beyond Friday night if their gesture was aimed only at buying time.

The EU leaders will urge Russia to “actively use its influence over the illegally armed groups and to stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border, in order to achieve rapid and tangible results in de-escalation”.

It held out the threat of tougher sanctions on Russia, saying EU officials had prepared targeted measures “so that further steps can be taken should events in eastern Ukraine so require”. 

Background

The crisis in Ukraine erupted after its former President Viktor Yanukovich cancelled plans to sign trade and political pacts with the EU in November 2013 and instead sought closer ties with Russia, triggering protests that turned bloody and drove him from power.

Moscow annexed Crimea in March following a referendum staged after Russian forces established control over the Black Sea peninsula in the biggest East-West crisis since the Cold War.

Pro-Russian militants control buildings in more than ten towns in eastern Ukraine after launching their uprising on 6 April. On 11 May pro-Moscow rebels declared a resounding victory in a referendum in Donetsk and Luhansk, which the West called illegal and illegitimate. 

Timeline

  • 27 June: Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia sign Association Agreements with the EU
  • 11 July: The Commission hosts trilateral consultations with Russia and Ukraine over the AA