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EU Slaps ‘Massive’ Sanctions on Russia


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen leaves at the end of an EU summit on Ukraine in Brussels, Feb. 25, 2022.

European Union leaders have announced what they called “massive” sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine during an emergency summit in Brussels that spilled into the early hours of Friday. The measures come amid reports of Russian troops moving ever closer to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

This is the European Union’s second set of sanctions against Moscow in less than a week, along with those imposed by the United States and other Western powers. EU leaders say they will hit Russia in five areas: the financial, energy and transport sectors, as well as through export controls and visa policy.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said they will have a maximum impact on Russia’s economy and its political elite.

"This package includes financial sanctions that cut Russia's access to the most important capital markets,” she said. “We're now targeting 70% of the Russian banking market, but also key state-owned companies including the field of defense.”

Officials say the sanctions will freeze transactions from many Russian banks, ban sales of aircraft and spare aircraft parts and limit Russian access to key technologies, among other effects.

The latest measures come as Europe faces its biggest security threat since World War II. It is already seeing the fallout as Ukrainians fleeing the conflict begin crossing the border into Romania, Hungary and Poland.

President Emmanuel Macron of France, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said France would add its own sanctions to the package and warned war had again returned to Europe. Macron spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone Thursday. Speaking to reporters early Friday, he described the Russian leader as duplicitous in his conversations with him.

Across Europe, people are taking to the streets to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Analysts like Marie Dumoulin, senior fellow for the European Council on Foreign Relations, believe the Ukraine crisis is helping to bring the sometimes fractious 27-member EU together.

“Putin is really helping the Europeans to be united,” she said. “If he had kept a sort of hybrid strategy, feeding uncertainty … there may have been divisions. But with this all-out war, I don’t think there will be much division within the EU.”

Skeptics, though, suggest EU sanctions may ultimately have a limited effect on Putin and his intentions when it comes to Ukraine.

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