Tuesday

31st May 2016

EU issues Russia sanctions ultimatum

  • Pro-Russia barricade in Donetsk (Photo: dasjo)

EU countries have given Russia and pro-Russia forces in Ukraine until Monday (30 June) to meet four conditions or face extra sanctions.

They said at a summit in Brussels on Friday the rebels must: give full access to international monitors; give control of border checkpoints back to Kiev; release all hostages; and “launch substantial negotiations” on a peace plan.

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“The [EU] Council will assess the situation and, should it be required, adopt necessary decisions [sanctions],” they noted in a joint statement.

An EU official told this website that foreign ministers would add more Russians or pro-Russia Ukrainians to the blacklist if things stay the same.

He said EU leaders would call a snap summit to discuss economic sanctions if the conflict escalates.

Rebels continued to kill Ukrainian soldiers during the past week despite President Petro Poroshenko’s unilateral ceasefire.

The ceasefire expires at 10pm local time on Friday, with Poroshenko, who attended the EU summit, saying he will consult with security chiefs in Kiev before deciding his next step.

He came to the EU capital to sign a free trade treaty which binds Ukraine to adopt EU norms and to stay out of Russia’s Eurasian Union.

He said: “We need to speak with Russia and I hope that this dialogue will now really take place.”

But Putin the same day showed little sign of accepting Ukraine’s pro-EU shift. He told state media the conflict is due to “an anti-constitutional coup in Kiev, [and] attempts to force on the Ukrainian people an artificial choice between Europe and Russia”.

His deputy foreign minister said there will be “serious consequences” for the EU treaty signature.

The Union's sanctions policy reflects the fact there is little appetite for economic measures against Russia in the EU Council, but also that Putin is seen as highly unpredictable.

Mark Galeotti, a Moscow-based US analyst on Russian affairs, told this website there are two scenarios.

He said Poroshenko might have made a quiet deal with Putin to sign the EU trade pact in return for accepting a divided Ukraine which stays in Russia’s sphere of influence.

“The other variant is that Poroshenko [by signing the EU accord] has just issued quite a challenge to Moscow and we know from the past that, when challenged, Putin’s instinct is to accept the challenge and to escalate.”

Galeotti predicted that if Putin opts to enflame the conflict he will do it in August.

He said there is unlikely to be a full-scale invasion.

“It’s more likely to take the form of more and better military hardware for insurgents and a renewed effort to push volunteers, mercenaries, Cossacks, adventurers, and what have you into Ukraine … or it could take the form of air strikes to disable the Ukrainian armed forces".

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