The EU will not impose sanctions on Russia just yet, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said on Monday, rebuffing a call from Kyiv to take such steps now to avert a war, rather than wait until after any possible Russian invasion.
Western countries fear a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine in recent weeks is a prelude to an invasion, which Moscow denies. The United States and European allies have said any attack would trigger “massive” sanctions against Moscow.
“We expect decisions,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said after arriving in Brussels to address a regularly scheduled meeting of EU foreign ministers.
“There are plenty of decisions the European Union can make now to send clear messages to Russia that its escalation will not be tolerated and Ukraine will not be left on its own.”
“We believe that there are good and legitimate reasons to impose at least some of the sanctions now to demonstrate that the European Union is not only talking the talk about sanctions, but is also walking the walk.”
But the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, as well as some of the assembled foreign ministers, made clear the bloc did not plan to impose sanctions yet. Borrell said he would convene an extraordinary EU meeting to agree sanctions “when the moment comes”.
TALKS ‘BADLY NEEDED’
For now, the EU supports the latest attempts to arrange further talks, Borrell said, after France said U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed in principle to a summit over Ukraine.
“Summit meetings, at the level of leaders, at the level of ministers, whatever format, whatever way of talking and sitting at the table and trying to avoid a war, are badly needed,” said Borrell.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the bloc should focus on facilitating more talks with Moscow.
“I think the way to prevent war is to talk and to find compromise and ways forward that can prevent invasion in the first place, which should be our priority now,” he said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accused Russia of playing an “irresponsible” game with the civilian population of eastern Ukraine and urged it to return to the negotiating table.
Sporadic shelling across the line dividing Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east has intensified since Thursday, with Western countries saying they fear Moscow is trying to create a pretext to invade.
“I urgently call on the Russian government, on the Russian president: Don’t play with human lives,” Baerbock told reporters after arriving at the meeting in Brussels.
“What we have seen over the last 72 hours in terms of attacks, violent disputes is really concerning,” she said. “The responsibility lies with the Russian government which is why I call urgently on the Russian government: Come back to the negotiating table. It is in your hands.”
The Kremlin confirmed on Monday that Putin and Biden could set up a call or meeting any time but said there were no concrete plans yet for a summit.