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Ukraine: EU’s mealy mouth response to Mariupol attack?

The EU’s Council of Foreign Ministers today (29/01) met in an extraordinary session to discuss the latest escalation of violence in Ukraine. They strongly condemned the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, especially in Mariupol, and the escalation of fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The EU’s Council expects Russia to exert its influence and to induce the separatists to fully live up to the commitments under the Minsk agreements. These include notably the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the security zone as urgent first steps.   The EU will actively support all diplomatic efforts conducive to creating a new political impetus and will engage further as necessary. Full implementation of the Minsk agreements as a basis for a sustainable political solution to the conflict, respecting Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity, must remain the focus of such talks.

In view of the worsening situation, the Council took decisions concerning restrictive measures. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini said: “We hope this can help putting pressure, in particular on Russia, to make positive steps, and prevent negative steps that we have seen in the recent days.”

The Council agreed to extend existing restrictive measures, targeting currently 132 persons and 28 entities over action against Ukraine’s territorial integrity, until September 2015. This will be done in full compliance with legal requirements. It also called for a proposal within a week on additional targeted sanctions, for a decision at the Foreign Affairs Council on 9 February. Finally, the Council asked that the Commission and the European External Action Service undertake preparatory work on any appropriate action aiming at ensuring a swift and comprehensive implementation of the Minsk agreements.

Is it too little too late in respect of Donetsk airport and the possibility of the rebels trying to establish a land corridor to the Crimea? Putin continues to deny everything and continue with his expansionist policy by proxy. A nominal extension of sanctions is unlikely to alter Moscow’s current course.

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