Poroshenko: EU likely to hold off on Russia sanctions
EU leaders are likely to hold off on extra Russia sanctions until at least next week, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, has indicated.
The Ukrainian leader spoke on Saturday (30 August) in Brussels after sounding out EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso ahead of an EU summit later in the day.
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Poroshenko noted that EU leaders are likely to agree further sanctions, but to wait on implementation to see how Russia reacts to his new “peace plan” next week.
“I have no doubts that today, after our discussion, the Council of the European Union will adopt a decision to give a task to the European Commission to prepare a specific decision on the [new] sanctions. If they are going to implement [them] or not, it depends on how fast we will be able to demonstrate progress in de-escalating the situation”, he said.
“We are waiting in the very next days, starting from Monday, to demonstrate real progress”.
For his part, Barroso noted that: “We [the commission] have already prepared some options [on new sanctions]”.
“The EU Council has stated before that if there is a further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine … there will be some more measures, and so I expect the leaders of the EU to be ready to take some more measures”.
Poroshenko’s previous peace plan demanded that pro-Russia separatists lay down their arms in return for talks on more autonomy.
But the Russian foreign ministry in a statement on Friday ruled out the move, saying: “When Kiev says that negotiations will only begin after the capitulation of those it calls ‘separatists,’ the self-defence forces are left with no choice but to keep fighting”.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin also gave little hope of a peaceful solution.
He told press on Friday at a youth camp at Lake Seliger, near Moscow, the actions of Ukrainian troops “remind me of the events of the Second World War, when German fascist ... occupiers surrounded our cities in east Ukraine”.
He added: "Russia's partners ... should understand it's best not to mess with us”.
"Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers”.
Putin’s EU ambassador, Vladimir Chizhov, on Friday denied that Russian troops have invaded Ukraine. He called the allegations an “aggressive misinformation campaign” by Kiev and by “third countries [the US]” to harm EU-Russia ties.
EU takes clear stand
The 28 EU countries and top EU officials see the conflict as a Russian war of aggression, however.
The bloc's foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, after chairing a meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Milan on Saturday, said “all ministers expressed concern” about “the recent aggression against Ukraine by regular Russian forces”.
She also urged Russia to “withdraw its forces from Ukraine”.
Barroso, standing next to Poroshenko in Brussels, said: “The use of Russian regular forces is not acceptable”. He noted that he called Putin on Friday to urge him “to change course … this is simply not the way that responsible, proud nations behave in the 21st century”.
Poroshenko said that from 27 August “thousands of Russian troops and hundreds of tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine”.
Asked if he will seek military help from EU or Nato states, he said: "Ukraine is ready to protect herself. We do not count on military personnel from other countries to fight back-to-back with our military".
“Let’s not try to spark a new flame [of conflict] in eastern Europe”, he noted.
“I am proud that we have survived a generation without war and I hate the idea that we could return to such a situation”.