Sunday

29th May 2022

'Overwhelming majority' of EU countries against Ukraine sanctions

  • European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso (r), met Ukrainian pop star and opposition activist Ruslana in Brussels last Monday (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

An “overwhelming majority” of EU countries believe the time is not right to talk of sanctions on Ukraine.

Lithuania was the only one who said the EU foreign service should draft a list of potential sanctions at a meeting of the bloc’s Political and Security Committee in Brussels on Thursday (23 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The rest followed Germany’s line that EU diplomacy should concentrate on stopping violence instead.

“The overall assessment is that at this stage precedence should be given to diplomatic engagement,” one EU contact noted.

“There was overwhelming support for engagement. The situation is not black and white. It’s very complex and we have to take things forward in a way to end violence, so that no more people are killed,” the EU diplomat added.

The source said that Ukraine is split between western Ukraine, where there is greater support for the opposition, and eastern Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych’s heartland, where he still has support.

“The solution must meet the aspirations of all the people,” the contact noted.

The internal EU debate comes amid renewed threats by Yanukovych’s security chiefs to use force.

"The events of the last days in the Ukrainian capital have shown that our attempts to solve the conflict peacefully, without recourse to a confrontation of force, remain futile," interior ministry Vitaliy Zakharchenko said in a statement on Saturday.

Zakharchenko directly controls Ukraine’s special police units and gendarmes and has the authority to issue them with firearms.

Mark Galeotti, a US expert on security in former Soviet countries, told this website that if he does, the confrontation could easily spiral.

“In the heat of the moment, if an armed policeman is facing molotov cocktails, people equipped with weapons, they might use live ammunition,” he said.

Zakharchenko's statement comes after opposition activists occupied municipal buildings in towns in western Ukraine, highlighting the country's divisions.

It also comes amid EU commissioner Stefan Fuele’s meetings with Yanukovych and with people at the protest camp, or Euromaidan, in central Kiev on Friday and Saturday.

Fuele said in a communique on Saturday: “I have discussed a series of steps to this end, that could lead to confidence building and to a political process aimed at ending this crisis.”

His officials decline to say what the “steps” might be.

But Fuele noted that EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton will also visit Kiev next week to show that: ”The EU would remain engaged in this process assisting them in de-escalating the situation.”

In wider diplomacy, top EU officials will discuss the Ukraine crisis at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Brussels on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azaraov, a hardline Yanukovych supporter, has tried to defend the regime’s actions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

But, in a sign of international opprobrium following the murders of up to six opposition activists last week, Davos organisers refused to let him enter the congress venue.

He told the FT in an interview at his hotel that outside “provocateurs” carried out the killings.

He also blamed a hardcore of 1,500 or so “ultra-nationalists, xenophobes and anti-Semites” in Kiev for causing last week’s clashes with Zakharchenko's riot police, or Berkut.

Correction: The original story said Poland and Sweden also spoke in support of sanctions at the Political and Security Committee meeting. In fact, Lithuania was the only one. Sincere apologies

Opinion

An open letter on the future of Ukraine

Intellectuals, artists and former foreign ministers, including Norman Davies, Andrzej Wajda and Bernard Kouchner, have urged European countries to support the Ukrainian opposition.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us