Sunday

17th Feb 2019

EU delays Russia blacklist by one week

  • Mogherini said nothing short of the full Minsk protocol would be acceptable (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

EU foreign ministers have delayed Russia sanctions for one week in order not to disrupt peace talks in Minsk on Wednesday (11 February).

They agreed, in Brussels on Monday, to blacklist 19 individuals and nine entities. But they said the visa bans and asset freeze would only enter into life next Monday if there is no breakthrough at the Minsk event.

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  • Ministers hold cards calling for Russia to free Nadiya Savchenko, a captured Ukrainian pilot, who is on hunger strike (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

The list includes Russian deputy defence minister Anatoly Antonov, two officials, two MPs, and 14 Russian agents in Ukraine, as well as nine non-commercial entities.

“We decided, by unanimity, to put the sanctions on hold until the 16th [of February] to give this effort [the Minsk summit] a chance”, EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini said.

She noted that a breakthrough must be based on implementation of the Minsk protocol - a 2014 accord which envisages a Russian pull-back, secure borders, international monitors, and limited autonomy for east Ukraine.

She added the decision to delay the blacklist was “consulted” with Ukraine.

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, whose country, together with Germany, is representing the EU in Minsk, said: “Things are beginning to move in the right direction … We will assess the situation again next Monday”.

His British colleague, Philip Hammond, said: “We sent a … signal that we value the political process”.

But Britain and other EU hawks warned that any new Minsk agreement must result in swift Russian action.

“We cannot trust a single word of the Russian leadership. It’s worthless unless it is proven on the ground”, Lithuania’s Linas Linkevicius noted.

Meanwhile, the ministers’ remarks on Monday continued to reveal divisions in the EU’s Russia policy.

Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden said sanctions are working.

But Greece cast` doubt on their efficacy, while Spain claimed the financial loss for EU businesses from the EU measures and Russian counter-measures has hit €21 billion.

Cyprus the same day defended its decision to renew a military co-operation pact which is to see Russia supply spare parts and maintenance services for Cypriot weapons systems.

It also plans to let Russia use its ports and airports to evacuate Russian nationals from Middle East hotspots if need be.

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades is to visit Moscow at the end of the month, while Russian leader Vladimir Putin is due to visit Hungary, another sanctions critic, next week.

At the same time, anti-Western feeling has hit an all-time high in Russia.

The trend comes amid a propaganda campaign depicting the EU and US as encroaching on Russian interests by backing a “fascist junta” in Ukraine.

The Levada centre, an independent pollster, noted that 81 percent of Russians feel “very badly” about the US and 71 percent feel hostile toward Europe - more than twice the levels of antipathy recorded one year ago.

The anti-Western feeling is likely to get stronger if the US starts supplying weapons to Ukraine.

"If, in fact, diplomacy fails, what I've asked my team to do is to look at all options … the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that is being examined”, US president Barack Obama told press in Washington alongside German chancellor Angela Merkel, a critic of arms supplies, also on Monday.

EU to blacklist five Russians

EU diplomats have agreed to list a Russian deputy defence minister, two officials and two MPs over the recent escalation in Ukraine.

UK reserves right to arm Ukraine military

The UK has followed the US in saying that if diplomacy doesn’t stop Russian aggression in Ukraine then it might start arming the Ukrainian military.

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