Saturday

16th Feb 2019

EU and US threaten to increase Russia sanctions

  • G7 leaders in Ise-Shima (Photo: G7)

Western leaders have threatened to increase sanctions on Russia on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Greece.

The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the UK as well as Canada, the US and Japan said in a joint statement after the G7 summit in Japan on Thursday (26 May) that they “stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase the cost on Russia should its actions so require”.

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They noted that the duration of existing sanctions was linked to Russia’s fulfilment of the so called Minsk peace plan for Ukraine, which involves Russian troops leaving Ukraine and restoring control of the border to Kiev.

“Sanctions can be rolled back when Russia meets these commitments”, they said. They also said they “recognise the importance of maintaining dialogue with Russia” on Ukraine and on broader issues, such as Syria, Islamic State and nuclear non-proliferation.

“In the context of the ongoing crisis between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, we reiterate that energy should not be used as a means of political coercion or as a threat to security”, the G7 added.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said the situation in Ukraine was “discussed in great detail” and that she had “hope” of progress.

UK prime minister David Cameron said on Twitter that: “On Russia, the #G7 has agreed on the vital importance of sanctions rollover in June”.

US president Barack Obama said “we’ve started to see some progress in negotiations, but we're still seeing too much violence” in Ukraine. Shelling by pro-Russia forces in east Ukraine killed seven Ukrainian soldiers this week.

Donald Tusk, the head of the EU Council, who also attended the Japanese event, told media: “The test of our credibility at the G7 is our ability to defend the common values that we share”.

The G7 statement comes amid internal EU talks on whether to extend the duration of existing economic sanctions on Russia when they expire in July.

Greek visit

Previous EU options papers said if the sanctions were to be increased, that would likely involve greater curbs on international credit and on sales of high-end technology to Russian firms.

The G7 group of wealthy nations suspended Russia’s membership after it invaded Ukraine in 2014.

But the diplomatic freeze has not stopped Moscow from cultivating ties with Russia-friendly EU states.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin will, on Friday and Saturday, visit Athens and the Orthodox Christian monastery of Mount Athos in northern Greece.

Putin said in an op-ed in the Kathimerini newspaper on Thursday: “Russia's starting point is the need to build an equal and fair dialogue of partners with the European Union on a wide range of issues - from simplifying visa processes to building energy alliances”.

'Absurd connection'

He raised the prospect of a new gas pipeline to the EU involving Greece despite having abandoned two previous plans to do so - via the Black Sea and via Turkey.

"The issue of our energy resources being carried through southern corridors to the countries of the European Union is still on the agenda,” Putin said. He said a new oil supply deal and investments in Greek railways are also on the cards.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was in Budapest on Thursday.

He repeated Russia’s widely-disproved claim that it has no troops in Ukraine.

“The European Union has linked this [sanctions] to Russia fulfilling the Minsk agreements … Such a connection is absurd, because our country, as is well known, is not party to the conflict in Ukraine”, he told Hungary’s Magyar Nemzet newspaper.

“Attempts to pressure Russia through unilateral sanctions will not force us to abandon our principled line or to sacrifice our national interests,” he said.

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