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28/01 – More Sanctions for Russia over Ukraine crisis

European media continue to report that due to the escalation of violence in Ukraine, EU member states will meet tomorrow and threaten to impose more sanctions on Russia, accused of “aiding and abetting” attacks by sending weapons across the border and directing the separatists through “operational command and control,” as the Washington Post writes.

All media unveil that the EU is currently preparing a fresh round of sanctions following the attack on the Eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, and issued a communiqué, yesterday, negotiated by the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and urging European foreign ministers to agree on terms before Thursday’s meeting (El Pais, Phileleftheros). Il Foglio in Italia and Rzeczpospolita in Poland report that the communiqué includes two new salient points: it identifies Russia as the backer of the separatists, and it proposes additional sanctions against Russia.

Phileleftheros reports that the communiqué urges once again Russia to observe the Minsk cease-fire deal signed in September. Il Foglio in Italia notes that for the first time, EU member states accused Vladimir Putin of being directly responsible over the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Kurier in Austria refers to European Council President Donald Tusk’s stating after the attack that once again appeasement encouraged the aggressor to act with more violence, adding that it was time for the EU to base its policy on cold facts, not on illusions.

Il Foglio’s David Carretta and Rzeczpospolita argue that yesterday’s statement contradicts EU HR Federica Mogherini’s attempt to ease relations with Russia, and highlight the changes in the EU’s vision of Vladimir Putin’s actions. Kommersant in Russia and the Finnish press quote some EU sources commenting on the new round of sanctions and stating that more individuals will be added to the personal sanctions list, and the EU will ban some equipment exports to Russia. The EU may also discuss proposals to disconnect Russia from the SWIFT electronic bank payments system.

Most European media report that the final decision on sanctions is expected to be taken during the European Council of February 12th. Several experts on international relations, however, say that the reaction from the West is predictable and irrational, with no clear strategic goals, adding that sanctions are expensive, and might be partly responsible for Europe’s economic difficulties, Kristeligt Dagblad in Denmark writes.

EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis reported after yesterday’s ECOFIN meeting that the aim of economic sanctions is not to burden the Russian economy, but to remind Moscow that the current situation in Ukraine is not acceptable, the Latvian press writes. Some European media from Mediterranean countries, and all Greek media, report that the newly elected Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, provoked the first diplomatic stand-off with the European Union by criticizing the joint-communiqué, stating that is was issued without observing the correct procedure to get Greece’s support.

Greek media and the Financial Times highlight that Mr Tsipras expressed his “discontent” in a phone call to European Commission Vice-President and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, while the Permanent Representation of Greece in the EU also expressed the Greek government’s dissatisfaction. Huffingtonpost.it maintains that this is the reason why Alexis Tsipras is against the communiqué. Capital.gr reports that spokesperson of European Council President Donald Tusk, Preben Aamann, replied to the Greek objections stating that every European countries was consulted before the publication of the document, including a representative of the new Greek government. “It was our understanding that the statement had been agreed by all yesterday evening,” he added.

De Standaard in Belgium maintains that Alexis Tsipras’s motivation might be due to the fact that his party, Syriza, already expressed its sympathy towards Russia in the past, and recalls that unanimity will be required to implement new sanctions. The Kremlin continues to deny giving support to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine or sending Russian troops, which Kiev said on Tuesday numbered as many as 15,000, the Wall Street Journal Europe writes. According to the Washington Post, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that Western countries were using these attacks to promote “anti-Russia hysteria” and give those who are out for “blood” an excuse to impose new sanctions on Russia.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Repubblica in Italy, former Ukrainian Prime Minister and leader of the orange revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, claims that the whole world is “wasting time” while Russia keeps repeatedly infringing upon the Minsk Treaty, and urges the EU and the US to intervene with further sanctions to stop Russia’s “imperialism” in Ukraine. Magyar Nemzet and ATV in Hungary both report that Ukraine will submit the Mariupol killings to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. © European Union, 2015

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