Monday

23rd Jan 2017

EU blacklists more Russians, warns on elections

  • Hague (r): 'votes in the Eurovision song contest really were more credible and carried more weight' (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

EU countries have expanded their Russia blacklist and warned Moscow they will trigger economic sanctions if it disrupts elections in Ukraine.

Foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (12 May) added 13 individuals and two entities to a previous list of 48 people under visa bans and asset freezes.

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.

Their names will be published later on Monday, but ministers hinted they include people linked to the kidnapping of EU monitors last month, persons who profited from the annexation of Crimea, one Russian politician and two Crimean energy firms.

They widened the legal basis of designations to enable them to target more senior Kremlin figures in future.

They also warned Moscow its “attitude and behaviour towards the holding of free and fair presidential elections” in Ukraine on 25 May will be the main factor on whether to attack Russia’s economy.

The message came after Moscow declared it “views with respect the expression of the will of the people” in referendums on independence in eastern Ukraine at the weekend.

Roman Lyagin, a rebel leader in Donetsk, said also on Monday that “joining the Russian Federation would probably be an appropriate step" in future.

The EU’s top diplomats mocked the referendums as fakes, however.

Britain’s William Hague said: “I think the votes in the Eurovision song contest really were more credible and carried more weight.”

He refused to give Russia credit for its soft wording on recognition. “They used the phrase ‘respecting’ - this is a similar phrase to how they reacted to the Crimea referendum, so there is no major departure from how they are treating these things," he added.

Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the referendums “cannot and should not be taken seriously.”

Lithuania’s Linas Linkevicius described them as a form of “Russian-sponsored insurgency”.

Several EU ministers repeated the warning on the importance of the 25 May vote for EU-Russia relations.

Steinmeier said: “We have to prepare for a scenario in which the 25 elections cannot take place - contingencies are there if needed. The EU does not want escalation of economic sanctions or an economic war, but we are ready.”

He noted that after almost three months of unrest, even Moscow is no longer in full of command of events. “There are regions entirely without any control,” he said.

Poland’s Radek Sikorski explained: “The red line [for Russia economic sanctions] in the past was armed incursion into Ukraine and now it is unacceptable influence on the elections.”

The EU also threw its weight behind a Swiss peace plan, drawn up under Switzerland’s role as the chairman-in-office of the OSCE, a multilateral body in Vienna.

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter explained during a two-hour briefing in the EU capital how he envisages getting pro-Russia rebels to lay down arms and vacate occupied buildings.

He also detailed plans for round-table talks between rebels and Ukrainian authorities.

The wide-ranging negotiations would explore constitutional reform and minority rights. They are expected to start this week and to be co-chaired by a well-known German diplomat, Wolfgang Ischinger.

But some EU states are wary of Ischinger's appointment, noting that his CV contains the Dayton agreement on creating federal Bosnia in 1995. "Bosnia is a disaster, and it's quite a small country, but Ukraine is the largest country in Europe," an EU contact said.

Meanwhile, the coming days are to see an unprecedented amount of contact between Kiev and the EU in a show of solidarity ahead of the 25 May poll.

EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy was in Kiev on Monday night, where he repeated the line that "the EU is prepared to step up sanctions in case of further destabilisation by Russia of Ukraine."

Steinmeier is visiting Kiev and, potentially, eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, while most of the Ukrainian government will spend the day with the European Commission in Brussels.

Kerry to EU: Believe in yourself

Outgoing US secretary of state gives EU short pep talk from Davos, hailing its peaceful and economic success. 'It's worked, folks', he said.

Moldova turns from EU to Russia

Moldova's president said he would like to scrap an EU treaty and has started preparations to join a Russia-led bloc.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden to host EU social summit
  2. US Congress may Trump-proof Russia sanctions
  3. Fury over UK 'cover up' of failed missile test
  4. Theresa May: I will not be afraid to stand up to Trump
  5. Brexit will destroy NI peace deal, says Gerry Adams
  6. EU housing price increase by 4.3%
  7. EU trade chief says UK deal will take 'couple of years'
  8. German defence spending boost not enough for Nato goal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Influence of Turkish Politics in Europe After the Coup Attempt
  2. World VisionEU Urged to do Better Ahead of Helsinki Conference on Syria
  3. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  4. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  5. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  6. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  7. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  9. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  10. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  11. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London

Latest News

  1. Future of euro on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Pope warns populism could lead to 'saviours' like Hitler
  3. How the EU can protect the world’s forest by tackling corruption
  4. Leftist newcomer takes lead in French Socialist primary
  5. Far-right groups pledge allegiance ahead of elections
  6. Trump pledges US-first foreign policy
  7. GMO opt-out plan remains in waiting room
  8. Trump: New sheriff in town