EU to slap new sanctions on Ukraine rebels

fORIEIGN ministers from the European Union united yesterday to draw up fresh sanctions against pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine but stopped short of a new round of measures against Moscow.

In Russia the media praised President Vladimir Putin, who had left the G20 summit early. Picture: AP
In Russia the media praised President Vladimir Putin, who had left the G20 summit early. Picture: AP

Ministers attending talks in Brussels called on officials to come forward with additional lists targeting separatists who are blamed for a series of violations of a ceasefire agreed in Minsk in September.

In a statement, ministers said they “will continue to closely follow the situation on the ground and will act accordingly”.

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At least ten people were killed and 17 others wounded in the latest fighting, the authorities reported yesterday.

In the House of Commons, David Cameron – who, along with other western leaders at the G20 summit in Brisbane, confronted president Vladimir Putin over Russia’s support for the rebels – said further sanctions against Moscow could follow unless it moved to de-escalate the situation.

He said: “We called on Russia to respect the Minsk agreements and made clear that if it does not, then we remain ready to intensify sanctions.

“Of course there is an economic cost to us from sanctions, but I believe the cost of allowing such a fundamental breach of our rules-based system to go unchecked would be infinitely greater in terms of cost in the long run.”

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Britain, together with former Soviet bloc countries such as Poland and the Baltic states, has been at the forefront of EU member states who have been pressing for tighter economic sanctions aimed at Russia. They have faced opposition from countries such as Austria, Greece and Cyprus, which have expressed concern about the potential economic impact.

It was also announced yesterday that Britain is to send ten armoured vehicles to bolster the international monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine, amid renewed tensions between the pro-Russia separatist rebels and the government in Kiev.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that the vehicles – worth £1.2 million, together with associated communications equipment – would enable monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to operate safely in the more volatile parts of the country.

Britain is also expanding its contribution to the OSCE mission staff, with eight additional monitors arriving last week and three more due to join them at the end of the month.

The OSCE is responsible for monitoring and verifying a ceasefire agreed between the warring parties in Minsk in September. There have since been numerous violations – leading to fears that the truce could unravel completely.

Mr Hammond said: “The UK stands squarely behind the Ukrainian people and government as they defend their nation’s independence and work to make the political, economic and governance reforms that are vital to rebuilding the country.

“The OSCE will play a vital role in implementing the Minsk Protocol between Russia and Ukraine.”

In Russia the media praised president Vladimir Putin, who left the G20 summit early after heavy criticism, describing him as being courageous enough to “enter the lion’s den”, and praising him for standing up to his critics and defending the national interest.

They also accepted his excuse for an early departure that he faced a long trip home.

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