Sunday

28th Aug 2016

EU to adopt Russia sanctions despite ceasefire

EU countries are to adopt new sanctions on Russia despite the Ukraine ceasefire, but might revoke them if things go well.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said at a Nato summit in Wales on Friday (5 September) that the situation is “fluid … one has to look at the ceasefire, if it holds. One has to look at the Russian troops, are they withdrawing?”

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  • The EU, the US, and Canada co-ordinated sanctions plans at the Nato event (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

She added: “these sanctions could indeed be put in place … but with the stipulation they can be suspended again [if the peace process succeeds]”.

British PM David Cameron said: “Be in no doubt: the sanctions go ahead as announced”.

“But if the ceasefire agreement holds and leads to a genuine peace plan … it would be right to take a second look”.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte noted: “First see, then believe - the sanctions process will continue”.

The sanctions are being imposed because thousands of Russian infantry troops and hundreds of armoured vehicles invaded east Ukraine last week.

The EU leaders spoke after Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko told media on the golf course at the Nato event that he had agreed ceasefire terms with pro-Russia rebels.

But the EU and US are sceptical the deal will stick or that Russia will give back conquered territory.

US president Barack Obama also said “we [the US] are finalising measures to deepen sanctions against Russia”.

“With respect to the ceasefire, we are hopeful, but, based on past experience, also sceptical”.

Russia’s timing of the ceasefire agreement - on the last day of an EU ultimatum and the last day of the Nato meeting - led some to see it as a trick.

“What we’ve seen in Ukraine since the start of the conflict is the creation of ambiguity designed to delay, or paralyse, [Western] decision making”, a Nato military commander, Sir Adrian Bradshaw, noted.

The new sanctions are to include more restrictions on Russian banks, oil firms, and defence companies, as well as more names on the EU’s visa ban and asset freeze list.

A British diplomat told EUobserver they are to be finalised on Friday and enter into life on Monday when they are published in the bloc’s Official Journal.

One EU diplomat said the economic sanctions could be agreed on Friday, but the blacklist might wait until next week. A second EU diplomat said - “Inshallah” - both would be ready for Monday.

Rapid reaction force

The sanctions decision is just one part of the Western reaction to Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Obama noted there will be more Nato air patrols in the Baltic region, more warships in the Black Sea, and more exercises in eastern Europe.

The allies agreed to stop making defence cuts in their budgets.

They agreed to create, by early or mid-2015, a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force of 4,000 men to deter Russian aggression on Nato’s eastern borders.

They could not agree on hosting them in permanent bases in the region because Merkel opposed the idea, Spiegel reports.

But they compensated Poland by deciding to hold their next summit, in 2016, in Warsaw.

“It will be an extremely interesting experience - a Nato summit in Warsaw, the same place where some time ago we saw the fall of the Warsaw Pact”, Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski said, referring to the collapse of the Communist defence alliance after 1989.

Slovakia's Fico goes to Russia

The Slovak prime minister, whose country currently chairs the EU council, will meet the Russian leader ahead of upcoming EU talks on Russia policy.

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