EU members have agreed upon a package of new sanctions against Russia that aims to inflict severe damage on the country after its recognition of breakaway regions in Ukraine, the EU foreign policy chief has said.
The 27 members of the European Union unanimously agreed on the measures at an informal meeting in Paris on the sidelines of an international forum, Josep Borrell said on Tuesday.
They are the first steps in a planned series of retaliatory measures devised to be cranked up if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack or pushes his troops deeper into Ukraine.
The sanctions that took effect Wednesday targeted senior Russian government officials, several companies and hundreds of lawmakers who voted in favour of recognizing the independence of separatist parts of southeast Ukraine.
The sanctions are mostly a freeze on the assets of those listed and a ban on them travelling in the 27-nation EU.
The measures come on top of a slew of economic and other sanctions slapped on Russia since it annexed Ukraine’s the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
Those sanctions already targeted Russia’s financial, energy and defence sectors, as well as goods that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.
WARSAW — Polish leaders are pushing for harsh sanctions against Russia for its military intimidation of their joint neighbour Ukraine, noting that past penalties have had a questionable effect.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Wednesday that sanctions slapped on Moscow after Russia’s 2014 snatching of Crimea from Ukraine were too soft.
President Andrzej Duda, who visited Kyiv in a show of support for Ukraine, said: “I deeply believe ... that we will be able to achieve this through peaceful means ... but I am also aware that the sanctions will have to be very tough.”
The lower house of Poland’s parliament, the Sejm, unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the international community to adopt harsh economic and diplomatic sanctions against Moscow.
Poland, which is an EU and NATO member, borders on its eastern side with Ukraine and Belarus, where Russian troops are stationed.
ROME -- Italy’s foreign minister says sanctions against Russia over its threatening behaviour toward Ukraine must be “sustainable, proportional, gradual and directly linked to concrete and objective developments on the ground.”
In a briefing to the Italian Senate on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio did not refer to Italy’s previously voiced misgivings about punishing Moscow -- which supplies some 40% of Italy’s gas.
Instead, Di Maio noted that gas from Russia flows exclusively through Ukrainian pipelines. That, he says, is “one more reason to avoid conflict.”
Italy is considering providing 110 million euros ($125 million) in civilian aid to Ukraine and is considering supplying Ukrainian armed forces with non-lethal supplies, such as equipment to remove land mines.
JERUSALEM — After keeping a low profile in the military and diplomatic standoff between Moscow and Kyiv due to its close ties with both, Israel says it supports the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Ukraine.
A statement Wednesday from Israel’s foreign ministry expressed concern about the “serious escalation” in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow is formally recognizing the independence of two pro-Russian breakaway regions.
The statement made no mention of Russia, which the United States and its NATO fear is poised to launch a full-blown attack on Ukraine.
The statement said Israel “hopes for a diplomatic solution which will lead to calm, and is willing to help if asked.”
The foreign ministry voiced concern about the welfare of its citizens in Ukraine and the country’s Jewish community.
Israel is home to a large population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, including Ukraine.
BRUSSELS -- The deputy chairman of Russia’s State Duma claims Russians are unimpressed by the sanctions slapped on their country by the European Union.
Pyotr Tolstoy, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Wednesday that Moscow is planning a response to the sanctions. He did not give details.
Tolstoy told Belgian broadcaster RTBF the EU sanctions were “worthless.”
The EU on Tuesday announced sanctions against the 351 Duma legislators who voted in favour of formally recognizing pro-Russian separatist regions in Ukraine, among others.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is torn between Russia and Ukraine as tensions between its Black Sea neighbours escalate.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says of those two countries, “It is not possible for us to give up on either of them.”
He told reporters: “We have economic, military and economic ties with Russia. We also have political, military and economic ties with Ukraine ... Our aim is to take such a step that we can solve this problem without having to give up on either of them.”
Turkey has repeatedly offered to mediate as fears mount that Russia could order its troops to invade Ukraine any day now.
Turkey lies on the south coast of the Black Sea, with Ukraine and Russia to the north and northeast, respectively.
Erdogan’s comments were reported by Hurriyet newspaper and other media on Wednesday.
BEIJING -- China is accusing the United States of creating “fear and panic” over the crisis in Ukraine.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Wednesday that China opposes new sanctions on Russia, reiterating a longstanding Chinese position.
She said the U.S. was fueling tensions by providing weapons to Kyiv in response to Russia’s large troop deployment around Ukraine’s borders and fears of an invasion.
China-Russia ties have grown closer under Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at talks in Beijing earlier this month.
The two sides issued a joint statement backing Moscow’s opposition to a NATO expansion in former Soviet republics and buttressing China’s claim to the self-governing island of Taiwan — key foreign policy issues for Beijing and Moscow.
Hua said Beijing wants multilateral talks to ease the mounting international tension over Ukraine. She did not mention efforts by the U.S., France and others to engage Russia diplomatically.
LONDON -- Britain’s foreign secretary has defended the speed and scale of sanctions against Russia, saying the government is holding some measures in reserve for use in the event of a full-scale incursion into Ukraine.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News that western powers want to keep some sanctions “in the locker” to deter Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s ambitions. British authorities have said they were seeking to verify troop movements before deciding how to proceed.
“We’ve heard from Putin himself that he is sending in troops,” Truss told Sky. “We don’t yet have the full evidence that that has taken place. What we are expecting ... is a full-scale invasion, including potentially of Kyiv.”
Truss’s comments came as she defended the government’s decision to impose sanctions on just five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals following Putin’s decision to recognize the independence of two breakaway regions of Ukraine and to send troops into the area as “peacekeepers.”
U.K. opposition leaders and defence experts have criticized the government for not imposing tougher sanctions, especially after the U.S. and European Union moved more aggressively to punish Putin.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is urging all sides in the Russia-Ukraine dispute to examine their consciences before God and pull back from threats of war.
In an appeal at the end of his weekly general audience Wednesday, Francis said he was pained and alarmed by developments in Ukraine, which he said: “discredit international law.”
He didn’t single out Russia’s massing of troops at Ukraine’s borders or its recognition of two rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine. But he noted: “Once again, the peace of everyone is threatened by vested interests.”
The Vatican is toeing a fraught diplomatic and ecumenical line, given its efforts to reach out to the Russian Orthodox Church and convene a second meeting between Francis and its leader, Patriarch Kirill.
Francis called for believers and non-believers alike to mark March 2, Ash Wednesday in the Catholic calendar, as a day of fasting and prayer.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has announced additional sanctions on Russia and is warning businesses to prepare for retaliation through Russian cyberattacks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday that targeted financial sanctions and travel bans will be the first batch of measures in response to Russian aggression toward Ukraine.
Australia and Russia have imposed sanctions on each other since 2014. The sanctions were initiated by Australia in protest of Russian involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
The National Security Committee in Morrison’s Cabinet approved sanctions and travel bans that target eight members of the Russian Security Council. They also agreed to expand previous sanctions and to align with the United States and Britain by targeting two Russian banks.
TOKYO — Japan’s prime minister has announced sanctions targeting Russia and two separatist Ukrainian regions recognized as independent by Russian President Vladimir Putin, joining an international effort seeking to pressure Russia to return to diplomatic talks.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday that his government will ban the new issuance and distribution of Russian government bonds in Japan in response to the “actions Russia has been taking in Ukraine.”
He said Japan will also suspend visa issuance to people linked to the two Ukrainian rebel regions and freeze their assets in Japan and will ban trade with the two areas.
Kishida expressed his “strong condemnation” of Russia, saying it has violated Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as international law.
“We strongly urge Russia to return to a diplomatic process in resolving the developments,” he said.
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