EU sanctions Russia in ‘answer to grave violations’ in Ukraine

Europe’s response to the Ukraine crisis will have lasting repercussions around the world, EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans says

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Live updates: follow the latest news on Russia-Ukraine

EU ministers on Tuesday unanimously agreed on a package of sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow's recognition of two breakaway Ukrainian regions as independent republics.

“The grave violations Russia is committing will not go unanswered,” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said.

Mr Borrell said the EU would target 27 individuals and entities that undermine Ukrainian integrity. These are Duma representatives that backed Mr Putin’s bid, banks financing Russian decision-makers, the ability of the Russian state and government to access European capital and financial markets and services.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, is not on the sanctions list, Mr Borrell said.

"Sanctions are only part of the response – diplomacy will continue," he added.

He said the EU will send a mission to help block cyber-attacks and insisted that "We will raise the level of sanctions substantially depending on Russian behaviour."

A day after Russia's move, Mr Putin blamed Ukraine for the end of the so-called Minsk ceasefire agreement, called on Kiev to end its bid to join Nato and told the West to stop sending arms.

Russia also started withdrawing diplomats from Ukraine.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia has 150,000 soldiers on Ukraine's borders and that it was undertaking a “further invasion” of the country.

The EU sanctions come after the UK announced its own measures targeting three wealthy Russian citizens and five private banks on Tuesday. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also said that G7 countries had agreed "a strong package of coordinated escalatory sanctions" on Russia.

Mr Putin on Monday announced the recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk and signed a decree to station Russian forces on the ground, drawing swift international condemnation and US sanctions.

Mr Le Drian, Mr Macron’s foreign minister, offered a robust rebuttal to questions over the French president’s mediation efforts on Ukraine where he flew to Moscow to meet with Mr Putin less than two weeks ago. Mr Le Drian said that Mr Macron did everything in his power to avoid a war but that Mr Putin’s actions showed that his signature and word was now worthless.

The text of the EU sanctions was drawn up while ministers attended the EU ministerial forum on the Indo-Pacific region on Tuesday morning in Paris. It was then discussed at an emergency sideline meeting.

The EU Commission draft mirrored closely the final sanctions announced.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany and other countries made clear at a UN Security Council meeting that Moscow “has no support in the world” for the latest move and it had halted the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.

EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans warned that Europe’s response to Russia would have lasting repercussions both on the continent and across the world.

An EU diplomat told journalists that ambassadors were “unanimously in favour” of imposing sanctions, potentially on hundreds of Russian companies and officials, and that banning trade in Russian state bonds was on the cards.

The EU has repeatedly warned of “massive consequences” on Russia if Moscow invades Ukraine. However, Mr Borrell was clear on Tuesday morning that the deployment of forces was an escalation but did not constitute the long-feared invasion.

“Russian troops in Donbas I wouldn’t say is a full invasion, but they are on Ukrainian soil,” he said as he arrived at the EU forum on the Indo-Pacific region on Tuesday morning in Paris.

Russia’s decision to recognise as independent entities and send troops to certain areas of Ukraine is illegal and unacceptable, the European Council and the European Commission said in a statement.

The move violates international law, Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, Russia’s own international commitments and escalates the crisis, it said.

Discussing the sanctions list before it was announced, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that “yesterday’s TV ‘show’ [by Mr Putin] means we know all the faces that were behind the political decision making leading to Russia’s actions. When it comes to heads of state, there is usually a different track.

The White House responded quickly to Monday’s move in Moscow by issuing an executive order to prohibit US investment and trade in the separatist regions. The US said additional measures — likely sanctions — would be announced on Tuesday.

Monday’s measures are separate from the list of possible sanctions that Washington prepared in the event of a Russian invasion, a senior administration official said.

Updated: February 22, 2022, 6:22 PM