You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

World

  • Interpol urges world response to Iraq extremists
    Interpol says the execution of an American journalist kidnapped in Syria shows the need for a coordinated international effort against the stream of foreign fighters joining extremists in the Middle East.
  • Pakistan holds talks with opposition protesters
    Pakistani officials have held first, “initial” talks with two opposition groups whose supporters have been besieging the parliament for a second day demanding the prime minister resign over alleged election fraud.
  • Indonesian police fire tear gas at poll protesters
    Indonesian police fired tear gas Thursday to disperse protesters trying to get close to a court set to rule on a challenge to the legality of last month’s elections.
Advertisement
Associated Press
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, right, gestures while speaking during a media conference after an EU summit in Brussels on March 6.

EU mulling next steps against Russia over Ukraine

BRUSSELS – The European Union is taking steps to increase sanctions against Russia over what many believe is a planned annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, as Moscow has changed from a wary partner to a diplomatic adversary in the space of a few months.

Sunday’s referendum in Crimea on secession has been called illegal by the EU and the U.S., and EU foreign ministers will decide on Monday whether to impose asset freeze and visa sanctions and, if so, who to target.

“The referendum is illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be recognized,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a joint statement Sunday.

EU diplomats were working feverishly over the weekend to set up a list of Russian and Moscow-leaning officials from Ukraine who have been involved in pushing for the southern peninsula’s secession and possible annexation. Diplomats said member states arrived at weekend talks with different suggestions, so a common list could be drawn up for Monday’s meeting of the 28 foreign ministers to make a final decision.

The joint Van Rompuy-Barroso statement said the foreign ministers will “decide on additional measures” against Russia on Monday.

They would likely include military officials who ordered Ukrainian troops to leave their barracks in Crimea and others who were responsible for breakaway actions there. On the other hand, diplomats said they would shy away from economic operators at the moment.

Depending on developments in Moscow and Ukraine, further sanctions could follow during a two-day summit of EU leaders starting on Thursday.

An EU summit last week suspended talks with Russia on a wide-ranging economic pact and a visa agreement.

On top of that, the EU could move quickly, possibly within a week, to sign the political chapters of a far-reaching association agreement with the provisional government in Kiev, underscoring its support for the new Ukraine government.

EU diplomats in several capitals made it clear the West is unwilling to give up Crimea in the hope of preventing Moscow from moving into eastern Ukraine.

If Moscow takes further measures to acerbate the crisis, the EU leaders already have threatened what they have called “far-reaching consequences for relations in a broad range of economic areas.”

It would set off a tit-for-tat game of sanctions, which the EU hopes would increasingly isolate Russia on the global stage. Moscow says it is convinced economic sanctions would hurt the EU as much as Russia itself.

Bound by tens of billions of dollars in trade, there is plenty to hurt one another.

Russia is the EU’s third-largest trading partner, mainly because of oil and gas imports, with the EU being its biggest gas consumer. Germany, for example, gets 35 percent of its supplies from Russia.

Russia, in turn, buys everything from machinery to cars from Europe, its biggest trading partner, with exports to Russia totaling 123 billion euros ($170 billion) in 2012.

The big change in relations came when Ukraine’s Moscow-leaning president, Viktor Yanukovych, made a last-minute decision to abandon an agreement to strengthen ties with the EU and instead sought closer cooperation with Russia. The EU accused Moscow of pressuring Ukraine to make the change and relations have fallen ever further from then on.

–––

Jamey Keaten from Paris and Juergen Baetz from Berlin contributed to this story.

–––

Follow Raf Casert on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert

Advertisement