Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

EU warns of more sanctions if Russia flouts ceasefire

  • Tusk (l) and Juncker after the informal EU summit on Thursday (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU leaders gave a “cautious” welcome to the Ukraine ceasefire deal on Thursday (12 February) but warned of further sanctions if it isn’t implemented.

“We gave it our cautious approval. But words set down on paper must be accompanied by deeds … If this doesn’t happen we won’t hesitate to take further steps”, Council chief Donald Tusk told press after a summit in Brussels.

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  • Merkel attended the EU summit after 17-hour talks in Minsk (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

“This conflict isn’t just about the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The whole geopolitical order in Europe after 1989 is at stake and we’ll be ready for any further development, good or bad”.

He noted the leaders didn’t discuss new sanctions in detail.

But he said they are “united and ready to act, also with new measures if necessary”.

He placed the burden of implementation on Russia, adding: “When it comes to implementation, the most important thing today is the good will of the Russian president, of that I have no doubt”.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said: “If the process becomes difficult, we don’t exclude further sanctions".

“We don’t yet know what these sanctions would be. We have asked the European Commission to make further preparations."

She confirmed the EU will on Monday expand its Russia blacklist by 19 individuals and nine entities in reaction to a rocket attack, last month, on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Merkel came to Brussels from Minsk where she brokered the so-called Minsk 2 ceasefire deal with French president Francois Hollande, Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko, and Putin.

It calls for cessation of hostilities at midnight on 15 February, withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the line of contact, and withdrawal of “foreign” troops from Ukraine.

It also speaks of “special status” for Russia-occupied territories and leaves the Russia-Ukraine border open until the end of 2015, with Ukraine, also on Thursday, saying that 50 Russian tanks and 40 mobile rocket launchers crossed into its territory overnight.

Merkel noted that she and Poroshenko wanted the ceasefire to start “much quicker”. But she said the talks were “tough” and 15 February was agreed for “tactical reasons”.

Other leaders echoed Tusk and Merkel.

British PM David Cameron said “unless Russian behaviour changes, and Putin's behaviour changes, then sanctions should stay in place”.

French president Francois Hollande noted conditions "still aren't right" to resume deliveries of two warships to Russia.

The Netherlands’ Mark Rutte said Poroshenko promised him the people who shot down flight MH17 last year will not be covered by a proposed amnesty for Russia-controlled fighters.

Trade study

For his part, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said he will draft a study on the impact of the EU-Ukraine free trade treaty on the Russian economy.

When asked if the exercise could lead to big changes in the EU-Ukraine pact - a symbol of Ukraine’s pro-Western revolution - he said: “We will make the final decisions in the light of this assessment”.

He also said EU officials will “immediately” relaunch talks with Russia and Ukraine on 2015 gas supplies.

Meanwhile, Tusk, a former Polish PM, defended his backseat role in the Minsk talks.

He said: “It’s obvious that the mediation of France and Germany gives a greater chance of success than my mediation - I'm here to help and support them”.

“The question of peace in Europe cannot be a subject for competition between EU institutions and EU nations. It’s too serious. It’s about the lives of thousands of people”.

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