Sunday

27th May 2018

EU not expected to impose tough sanctions on Russia

  • EU diplomat: 'at least there is a freeze in the escalation' (Photo: Christiaan Triebert)

EU countries are not expected to impose tough sanctions on Russia when leaders meet for an emergency summit in Brussels on Thursday (6 March).

The event comes after EU foreign ministers said on Monday the Union will “consider … targeted measures,” such as visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials, unless Moscow pulls back troops from Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Nato on Wednesday did suspend co-operation with Russia.

“We have suspended the planning for our first Nato-Russia joint mission. The maritime escort for the US ship Cape Ray, which will neutralise Syria’s chemical weapons … We have also decided that no staff-level civilian or military meetings with Russia will take place for now [and] we have put the entire range of Nato-Russia co-operation under review,” Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

Ukraine has also called on the EU to take firm steps.

“I call upon the strong, resolute and consolidated response of the European Union … against the atmosphere of impunity in which our strategic partner threatens the overall system of international law,” its EU ambassador, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, wrote in a letter, seen by EUobserver, to EU states this week.

For his part, US secretary of state John Kerry, told press that a meeting with his British, Ukrainian, and Russian counterparts in Paris on Wednesday was better than no talks at all, but did not lead to a breakthrough.

“This is hard, tough stuff and a very serious moment, but I’d rather be where we are today than where we were yesterday,” he said.

He added that Germany, France, and the UK, remain “very serious” about the threat of punitive measures: “There’s been no movement away from the possibility.”

But EU diplomats say Germany and Italy are opposed to taking strong action in order not to aggravate the situation, while France is giving credence to some positive statements by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris.

“France some saw positive things in the Paris talks: Lavrov appeared to accept the idea of creating a contact group [on the crisis], even though it is not yet clear with whom or when. And while there is no de-escalation, at least there is a freeze in the escalation,” one EU contact said.

“The situation is complicated. Some countries think sanctions are not the way to encourage talks. Even Poland is wary of freezing the visa-free dialogue,” the source added.

Another EU diplomat noted that Sweden and Baltic states are among the most hawkish.

But Greece, a traditional Russian ally, has said openly it is opposed to taking action, which requires a consensus of all 28 EU members. “Sanctions are unfortunately always double-edged, with repercussions for those who suffer them, but also for those who impose them … We don’t want sanctions,” Greek foreign minister Evangelos Venizelos told press on Wednesday.

The EU on Thursday morning imposed an asset freeze on 18 former Ukrainian regime members, however.

The list includes: Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovych and his two sons; the former PM and his son; the president’s former chief of staff and his brother; the former prosecutor general and his son; the former interior minister; and the former head of Ukraine’s intelligence service.

The EU had previously promised to impose visa bans and asset freezes on people guilty of human rights abuses and violence.

But Thursday’s list targets the so-called Yanukovych “familia” for "involvement in crimes in connection with the embezzlement of Ukrainian state funds and their illegal transfer outside Ukraine" - money thought to be worth several billions of euros, but also thought to have been sent to exotic jurisdictions by now.

Meanwhile, the EU’s Ukraine diplomacy more broadly was put under a question mark on Wednesday by an interception of internal EU talks.

An audio clip, purportedly obtained by former Ukrainian intelligence officers and posted on YouTube, shows Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet in a phone call to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton giving credence to theories that someone in the EU-backed interim government ordered snipers to shoot people at the height of the crisis.

“What was disturbing is that the same snipers ... killed people on both sides. She showed me some photos. She said that as a medical doctor she could tell it was the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it's really disturbing that now the new coalition, they don't want to investigate what exactly happened,” Paet tells Ashton, referring to Olga Bohomolets, a senior medical officer at the protest camp.

“There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych. It was somebody from the new coalition,” he adds.

The Estonian foreign ministry has confirmed the authenticity of the recording, made on 25 February.

But Bohomolets told the British daily, The Telegraph, that her views only expressed a hypothesis and should not be used to assert that members of Ukraine’s new government are guilty of the killings.

"I think you can only say something like this on the basis of fact … It's not correct and it's not good to do this. It should be based on fact,” she said.

Ukraine PM, EU leaders taking soft line on Crimea

Ukraine’s interim leader has urged the UK and US to protect its territorial integrity, but indicated the Ukrainian army will not act unless Russian forces move beyond Crimea.

Analysis

Good day for Russia in Europe

Russian firm Gazprom is a reformed character, the EU commission has said, improving the climate for new pipelines to Europe.

Analysis

EU has no 'magic bullet' against US Iran sanctions

EU leaders in Sofia will discuss how they can protect the bloc's economic interests against US threats to sanction companies doing business in Iran. But their options are limited.

Opinion

Ratifying CETA after 'Achmea scandal' is anti-European

While few people in Europe have heard of the 'Achmea' ruling, the case will have far-reaching consequences. Member states must understand the implications of the case quickly - especially those considering ratifying the EU-Canada trade agreement.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations