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13th Apr 2024

EU ministers to condemn Russian 'aggression'

  • Russia has been fighting a low-intensity war in east Ukraine for eight years (Photo: Christopher Bobyn)
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EU foreign ministers are planning to condemn "Russia's continued aggressive actions and threats against Ukraine", while calling for de-escalation at Monday's (24 January) meeting in Brussels.

"Notions of 'spheres of influence' have no place in the 21st century," they are also planning to say, according to draft conclusions seen by EUobserver.

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The "freedom of states to choose or change their own security arrangements", such as Ukraine's freedom to pursue Nato membership, was "non-negotiable", they aimed to add.

The violation of such principles by Russia "threatens peace and stability on our continent" and would be met with "massive consequences and severe costs ... [including] a wide array of sectoral and individual restrictive measures", the draft conclusions said.

"The EU has accelerated the preparatory work in this direction," they noted.

The EU statement comes as the US, this weekend, ordered diplomats' families and non-essential embassy staff to leave Ukraine.

"Military action by Russia could come at any time" and the State Department "will not be in a position to evacuate American citizens in such a contingency," the US embassy in Kyiv said.

"Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action," the US also advised its citizens more broadly.

"Do not travel to Russia due to ongoing tension along the border with Ukraine, the potential for harassment against US citizens," it added.

For its part, the UK warned Russia was planning to topple Kyiv's pro-Western government to install a pro-Kremlin MP, Yevhen Murayev, in power as part of its plans.

"There'll be very serious consequences if Russia takes this move," British deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday.

The UK and US have sent lethal weapons to Ukraine to help it counter potential aggression, with some 90 tonnes of US arms unloaded in Kyiv on Saturday.

And the US is considering sending another 3,000 to 5,000 troops to the Baltic states and Romania as part of Nato's Russia-deterrent forces there.

Meanwhile, the EU foreign ministers' statement comes after Russia excluded the EU from security talks with the US and Nato in recent weeks.

Its mention of "spheres of influence" referred to Russian demands for Nato to forbid Ukrainian membership and pull troops out of eastern Europe.

The EU ministers were also to promise to help Ukraine counter Russian "cyber and hybrid threats", such as disinformation, and to bolster Ukraine's "professional military education".

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania want to send US-made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

But most EU countries do not want to go down that path.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, last week, called for new EU-Russia security talks instead.

And a German naval commander aired thoughts on Russia which revealed that some in the German establishment had more sympathy for the Kremlin than EU declarations suggested.

"What he [Russian president Vladimir Putin] really wants is respect," German vice admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach said while visiting India last week.

"And, my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost ... It is easy to give him [Putin] the respect he really demands - and probably also deserves," Schönbach added.

"The Crimea peninsula [which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014] is gone, it will never come back, this is a fact," the German admiral also said, prior to tendering his resignation for what he himself called his "rash remarks".

Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia

Emmanuel Macron also took hits from French political opponents, including the Green party presidential challenger MEP Yannick Jadot in the European Parliament ahead of the upcoming presidential elections in France in April.

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