News / Europe

EU Readies New Sanctions Against Russia

  • People, who have fled the fighting in the eastern regions of Ukraine, queue for job vacancies at an employment fair at the dormitories where they have taken refuge in Krasnoyarsk Russia, Sept. 2, 2014.
  • An injured Ukrainian serviceman talks to a relative before being put into ambulance in Kyiv, Sept. 2, 2014.
  • An injured Ukrainian serviceman smokes as medical personnel help him into an ambulance at the military hospital in Kyiv, Sept. 2, 2014.
  • A soldier of the Ukrainian Army, who was injured during the fighting against separatists in Eastern Ukraine, talks to a relative at the hospital in Kyiv, Sept. 2, 2014.
  • Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses his Tunisian counterpart Mongi Hamdi (not pictured) during their meeting in Moscow, Sept. 2, 2014.
  • Pilots attend the wake of MH17 co-pilot Eugene Choo, after the return of his remains in Seremban, Sept. 2, 2014.
  • Choo Ewe Keat, father of MH17 co-pilot Eugene Choo, cries at his wake after the return of his son's remains in Seremban, Sept. 2, 2014.
  • A mother and child lie on the bed in the bomb shelter in Petrovskiy district, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 1, 2014.
  • A little girl walks the stairs of the bomb shelter in Petrovskiy district in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.
VOA News

European officials proposed sweeping new sanctions on Tuesday to starve Russia's companies of capital and technology as punishment for Moscow's intervention in Ukraine, where Kyiv officials said Russia was bolstering an “invasion” force.

Western countries accuse Moscow of sending armored columns of troops into Ukraine, where the momentum in a five-month war shifted last week decisively in favor of pro-Russian rebels, who are now advancing on a major port.

Russia denies its troops are involved in fighting on the ground, in the face of what Western countries and Ukraine say is overwhelming evidence.

Expansion of rebel-held regions in UkraineExpansion of rebel-held regions in Ukraine
Expansion of rebel-held regions in Ukraine
Expansion of rebel-held regions in Ukraine

According to the United Nations, the war, in which pro-Russian separatists are fighting to throw off rule from Kyiv, has killed more than 2,600 people and driven nearly a million from their homes in east Ukraine.

Sanctions to be approved

European leaders asked the EU on Saturday to draw up new sanctions to punish Moscow, which are expected to be unveiled on Wednesday and adopted by Friday.

The United States is also planning new sanctions but is keen to maintain Western unity by not getting in front of its European allies.

Outlining the new proposals on Tuesday, European diplomats described a number of mainly technical measures that would have the combined effect of making it harder for companies in Russia's state-dominated economy to obtain overseas financing.

U.S. and EU sanctions steadily tightened since March have already made it hard for many Russian firms to borrow, scaring investors and contributing to billions of dollars in capital flight that has wounded the Russian economy. Moscow has responded by banning most imports of Western food.

“We need to respond in the strongest possible way,” said  the EU's newly named incoming foreign policy chief, Italian foreign minister, Federica Mogherini. “Things on the ground are getting more and more dramatic. We speak of an aggression, and I think sanctions are part of a political strategy.”

Still, it is by no means clear that the sanctions will pass in their proposed form: the 28 EU member states must all agree on any measures, and several have openly expressed skepticism.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he would study ways to reduce the harm to his country from sanctions, and seemed unconvinced by the entire strategy.

“The problem is that if sanctions are escalated now, there will be a reaction from Russia and we are not able to estimate at this point what impact the next wave of sanctions by Russia against EU countries will have,” he said.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has also expressed concern, calling sanctions “meaningless and counterproductive.”

The measures described by EU diplomats all build on earlier sanctions imposed in July, which hit Russian business broadly for the first time.

Ban on raising capital

The new proposals on the table would widen a ban on Russian state banks raising capital in EU markets to cover all Russian state-owned firms. The capital markets borrowing ban would be extended to include syndicated loans from EU banks, and a ban on sales in Europe of Russian debt instruments for periods of less than 90 days would be reduced to 30 days.

Bans on sales of energy technology and technology with dual military and civilian uses would be tightened. And the 28-member bloc could also consider more symbolic measures, like adding Russia's defense minister to an EU travel ban list and possibly even limiting future sport and culture exchanges.

The European Union also opened a pipeline that could supply Ukraine with 20 percent of its natural gas needs, important aid for a country that depends on Russian energy. Kyiv has been burning gas reserves since Moscow cut it off two months ago.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyiuk said the opening of the pipeline showed his country was united with the European Union.

'Invasion' force

In an interview with Reuters, Kyiv's governor for the Donetsk region, now operating out of the province's second-biggest city Mariupol while the regional capital Donetsk is in rebel hands, described the Russian presence as an “invasion.”

Western leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, mindful that the Russian forces they say have crossed into Ukraine still represent just a  fraction of Moscow's potential might in the area, have so far avoided that word, instead calling it an “incursion.”

The governor, wealthy industrialist Serhiy Taruta, told Reuters: “A huge amount of weapons are  unfortunately crossing the Russian border. They (the Russians) bring them to Ukraine to bring death and destruction and they try to annex part of Ukrainian territory.

“So it is very difficult to qualify it any way other than as an invasion," Taruta said.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, where most of the population is ethnic Russian, in March. Since then, rebels in the east, where most people identify themselves as ethnic Ukrainians who speak Russian, have declared independence.

Government forces pulled out of Luhansk airport on Monday. On Tuesday, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said they had destroyed the runway before leaving to make it unusable.

He also said the government was reinforcing Mariupol, a port of about 500,000 people, and the next big city in the path of a rebel advance that began last week with the sudden capture of the small town of Novoazovsk.

“Soon we will build a second line of defense at a distance further out of 15-20 kilometers from the town,” Lysenko said.

Lysenko also said Tuesday that Russian troops have been spotted in 10 locations inside eastern Ukraine, including two major cities. He said Russian trucks, painted white, were now being used to deliver arms to the rebels.

“Last night four white trucks came ... and after an hour went back again. It's not the first time that white trucks have unlawfully crossed the border accompanied by off-road vehicles and guards,” he told journalists.

Displaced Ukrainians

Lysenko said on Tuesday that 15 additional troops were killed in the past 24 hours in fighting with pro-Russian separatists backed by Russian troops.

Overall, U.N. agencies say about 2,600 people have died in the conflict, around 800 of them members of Ukraine's security forces, Kyiv said.

Also on Tuesday, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said that more than one million people have been displaced by the conflict in Ukraine, including 814,000 Ukrainians now in Russia with various forms of status.

Numbers displaced inside Ukraine by the fighting have nearly doubled in the past three weeks to at least 260,000 and more are fleeing, the agency earlier told a Geneva news briefing.

Belarus meetings

Representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the pro-Russian rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are scheduled to meet again in Minsk, Belarus, on Friday. 

The parties are expected to discuss a possible cease-fire and a prisoners' exchange.

However, the prospect of talks between Ukraine and the rebels appears dim.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday urged the United States to use its influence with Ukraine to encourage efforts to reach a political settlement.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.


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Comment Sorting
by: jr levine from: usa
September 02, 2014 1:55 PM
Can the UN threaten to remove Russia from the UN security council to eliminate the veto power of Russia? I would think the UN would not allow any UN member that commits international crimes of military annexation of a sovereign state to have veto power on any UN issue. Is this even possible, as the UN did extended this UN security council veto power to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. And would this mean anything to Russia? Just a thought.

by: Igor from: Russia
September 02, 2014 11:42 AM
Supporting the coup to overthrow legaly elected government in Ukraine to erect a new pro-western one which is not recognized in the East, encouraging Kiev to commit war crimes against humanity by shelling and mass killing russian speaking people in Ukraine by warplanes,tanksand artillery, preventing humanitarian aids to russian speaking people community to let them die of hunger are the actions of The EU and the US. If you think your sactions can make russians to abandon our fellows in Ukraine, you are too stupid.

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
September 02, 2014 6:15 PM
Putin is a super "Russian patriot" and will do everything to protect Russia and the Russian speaking people only, and Putin and Russia aren't out to change or save the world like the Us, EU, and NATO tries to do, that always seems to turn out like Libya and Iraq?

by: Admino from: EU
September 02, 2014 11:08 AM
The World should try to disconnect Russia from the Internet. There are not so many broadband-connections between Russia and Civilised World. So it is possible. These should be blocked.

by: meanbill from: USA
September 02, 2014 9:51 AM
On March 02, 2014 President Obama got that dreaded phone call at 03:00am, (and what did President Obama do), when told that Russian troops had entered Crimea, (nothing), and then the whole world watched while the Crimean's voted and joined the Russian Federation, (he still did nothing), and now the whole world is watching and waiting again for President Obama with the greatest country on earth, with the greatest military in the history of the world, (to do something but impose sanctions), while Russia is threatening to take another piece of Ukraine?... "RING"... (It's another 03:00am phone call?)..The great mystery is, will President Obama do anything, something, before Putin and Russia ends up eating half the cake, that's Crimea?
In Response

by: alfredo ibarra barajas from: México
September 02, 2014 1:14 PM
I think Mr. Obama is trying to go slow, and not doing what Mr Bush did in the past, that is, to plunge headlong in war after war, which I think, resulted catastrophic for the economy, coupled with the subprime mortages crisis which caused a lot of pain to American people, an enormous lose of jobs and so forth.

I think you should see this within a context, Mr. Obama is acting cautiously. I think it took a lot of effort to put again the economy on its feet, but many people in the USA want to see its country immediately in the warpath, but that, I think, it is not a wise decision in my opinion. I think wars consume a lot of resources that could otherwise be well used to create jobs.

Don't push Mr. Obama. I think he is doing an excellent job, if you see it in retrospective, remember the way he received the economy. I think it was in life support, to paraphrase that medical term when someone is in a very critical state, many people living in their cars because they had lost their houses,no jobs available anywhere I remember the long lines of people looking for a job. I don't think people want to return to that

But I do think that involving yourselves in conflict after conflict is a sure ticket to return again to instability. Let Europeans and Arabs to solve their own conflicts. Many bad things started because of the Arab Spring, conflict after conflict, and nobody is happy with the outcomes. They should have stayed as they were before, and they would have saved themselves a lot of pain. If someone just had a crystal ball to see the future, we would not do so many regrettable things.

by: Anonymous from: France
September 02, 2014 9:10 AM
Europe must change gas supplier Gasprom in favor of Asia and Norway.

by: Anonymous
September 02, 2014 9:08 AM
If all countries impose severe sanctions on Russia economies will not suffer too much and we prevent WW3

by: Richard from: UK
September 02, 2014 8:42 AM
The west needs to disable all financial communication facilities for Russia, SWIFT, VISA, Master Card etc. All foreign banks should start and calling in all outstanding loans. Spare parts supplied by the West should also be stopped.
In Response

by: CDNborn from: Canada
September 02, 2014 9:43 AM
Russia could call in the $163 Billion of US debt that it owns, and then turn off the gas to the EU.

That would make things a little more interesting.
In Response

by: subash chander from: Moscow
September 02, 2014 9:01 AM
What will be achieved by doing all this. I think it is not correct to do all this, as the over all loss would be to the citizens and no one else. Secondly, the EU, US,Russia and Ukraine must try to resolve this problem amicably. Initially, both the sides should be made standstill, means a cease fire and then the solution through a series of talks with all relevant agencies would be the correct decision

by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, USA
September 02, 2014 7:21 AM
The Russian built problem in Ukraine can be resolved in many dimensions. The august statement of the UN chief for constructive dialouge process between Russia and Ukraine is welcome. But the parties to peace are on war path now. Moscow has two pronged strategies - to creating the rebel groups inside the Ukraine territory supplying arms and amunitions for them; and, amassing own ground troops bordering the eastern and the southern sides of Ukraine.

On the other, the Poroshenko govt. does endeavor to have touch with the EU, NATO and ours for getting the politico-diplomatic and military supports. ........ While Moscow does act as per its strength; poor Poroshenko does rely upon the outside assistance. While fights going on; the pro-Moscow rebels are well advanced by the politico-diplomatic and defense strength and strategies, the EU and our govt. do impose economic sanctions upon Russia to deter. It's just like a patient that needs instant surgery; but homeopathic pills that's administered instead. Another unfortunate factor for Ukraine that's not a NATO member like the Baltic states where the combined NATO defense strength can move in to deterring Russia. It's better for Poroshenko to join and advance the Minsk peace talks.

by: Anonymous from: Germany
September 02, 2014 5:35 AM
If no punishment measures would take severe affect on Russia,consequences will be much foster for the West. Also we must cut Russia off revenue from gas.
In Response

by: Arif from: Maldives
September 02, 2014 6:14 PM
Cutting GAS with Russia again EU will supper with high price. Shipping GAS cost more the through pipe. Russia given discount. For Russian not much problem due China and Indian have started putting Pipes from Russia they survive EU economy does not stand.. all wrong idea still try peace amke federal state or give independence to those State who want it.

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