Pressure mounts for EU sanctions on Ukraine
A consensus is emerging among member states to impose targeted sanctions on Ukraine following violent clashes in Kiev, which left over two dozen people dead.
“Member states are moving towards the decision that we should take these steps,” an EU official close to the issue told this website on Wednesday (19 February).
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Ministers in Brussels are thrashing out possible scenarios, with a political agreement set to be announced following a foreign affairs council tomorrow.
“They are not discussing names at this point because there is no list of names to discuss, they are still under preparation,” said the EU official.
Aside from travel bans and asset freezes, an export ban on items that could be used for repression from the EU to Ukraine could also be imposed.
“It is very likely there will also be an export ban on equipment that be used for internal repression,” said the contact.
EU-targeted sanctions require unanimity among member states and enter into law once they are published in the bloc’s Official Journal.
A EU foreign affairs spokesperson told reporters in Brussels all the decisions can be taken rapidly, but stopped short of giving a firm deadline.
She noted that in principle sanctions could be decided on Thursday and then published on Friday.
Meanwhile, France and Poland have joined Germany’s call to go ahead.
At a Franco-German summit in Paris, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that sanctions alone are not enough and said a political dialogue needs to be launched to restore peace.
“Due to the new nature of the situation, the sanctions are important, but it is not a means to end and will not resolve the problems by itself,” she said.
French President Francois Hollande also said the EU has to act.
The priority, he said, is to end violence and then up dialogue in Ukraine along with “all the countries concerned by the Ukrainian question.”
“We cannot remain passive at what is happening in Ukraine,” said the French president.
Polish Prime minister Donald Tusk said: “I will today hold talks with the leaders of the biggest EU countries and European institutions, and persuade them to impose sanctions - personal and financial”.
For his part, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt noted President Yanukovych had “blood on his hands.”
Yanukovych in a statement said the protestors crossed the line when they asked people to take up arms against the police.
Some 600 people have been injured in the clashes, around half of them police officers. Twenty-six are confirmed dead, including a Russian journalist who was pulled from his car by masked men and shot in the chest.
EU institutions have all issued statements calling for member states to impose the targets on individuals who perpetrated the violence.
European Commission president Jose Barroso said the EU would respond to any deterioration on the ground. “We therefore expect that targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force,” he said.
Barroso told Yanukovych in a phone call on Wednesday to end the violence.
EU chief Herman Van Rompuy and European Parliament president Martin Schulz have also called for punitive measures.
“The Ukrainian authorities are about to lose all legitimacy,” said Schulz.
He said Ukraine needs to make space for a transitional government and call early elections.
The European Commission, for its part, said “all possible actions will be explored” but would not name Yanukovych, officials in his entourage, or fringe groups in the protest camp as possible targets for the sanctions.
Meanwhile, a landmark EU trade and association deal, which Ukraine authorities rejected in November in favour of a Russian bailout, is still open to signature should Yanukovych calm things down and change his mind.
“It is an offer that still stands, the door is open, when the Ukraine is ready but I don’t think there will be any renegotiation on this,” said an EU official.