EU Leaders to Decide on Further Sanctions Against Russia

World | April 28, 2014, Monday // 10:06|  views

As Western leaders prepare to discuss new sanctions, pro-Russian separatists are still gathering further support in eastern and southern Ukraine. Photo by EPA/BGNES

The Council of the European Union is to discuss on Monday new sanctions against Russia over the deepening crisis in eastern and southern Ukraine.

The meeting will be conducted at an ambassadorial level.

A group of 10 to 15 Russian officials are expected to enter the current "black list".

Further economic and trade measures could be discussed at the session, but opinions within the Council are divided over whether the Union should make that step. Fresh restrictions against Russia could include a ban on exports of high-tech products for the Russian military industry and suspension of all trade with companies which are controlled by Putin's inner circle.

UK Foreign Minister William Hague was quoted by Sky News as saying that EU leaders were also working on "more far-reaching measures of economic, trade and financial sanctions".

The idea of new sanctions was also backed by the G-7 countries on Friday, but no concrete steps have yet been announced.

EU leaders approved on March 6 a first round of measures of the Ukrainian crisis by cancelling a EU-Russia summit which was due in June and halting visa negotiations with Moscow. This was followed by personal sanctions, such as asset freezes and travel bans, against a number of people deemed responsible for destabilizing Ukraine and for the situation in Crimea.

US officials are also considering another package of sanctions which, according to White House representatives, could hurt the Russian economy.

Talks over Western sanctions follow last week's developments in eastern Ukraine, where a hostage crisis involving OSCE members added to the episodes of violence and heightened tensions in areas where pro-Russian separatists are staging government building occupations.

On Sunday, rebels who had earlier seized eight OSCE observers and an interpreter freed one of the members. The monitors were accused by Slaviansk's self-proclaimed mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov of being NATO spies.

Short before a Swedish national was released, the team was shown to the media, and the event prompted Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to describe it as "revolting" and "blatantly hurting the dignity of the victims." Four of the OSCE members held in Slaviansk are of German origin. Steinmeier urged Russia to put pressure on separatists to free the hostages.

Moscow vowed to take "all possible steps" in that direction. Ponomaryov however insists he does not have any communication with Russia regarding last weeks' events in Ukraine.

Tensions were on the rise across other parts of eastern and southern Ukraine over the weekend.

In Krarkiv, a pro-Russian supporters group clashed with football fans rallying in support of a united Ukraine.

Donetsk rebels took control of the regional TV and radio headquarters and demanded that a Russain state TV channel be broadcast.

Reports by ITAR-TASS reveal that separatists in the eastern city of Luhansk also issued an ultimatum to the government in Kiev and said that if federalization demands are not met and special forces are not withdrawn for the regions, all Kiev representatives will be considered criminal and "against the people" and "active measures" will be taken against them.

A recognition of Russian langage as an official one, the holding of local referendums on regional status within Ukraine and an amnesty involving all activists who took part in recent pro-Russian protests are also among the demands.

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Tags: Russia, EU, Ukraine, Steinmeier, sanctions, Hague, OSCE, Slaviansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Kiev, separatists


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