February 21, 2022
By Sabine Siebold and Ingrid Melander
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union must start imposing some sanctions on Russia now to show it is serious about wanting to prevent a war in Ukraine, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said as he arrived in Brussels to meet the bloc’s foreign ministers.
Western countries fear a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine in recent weeks is a prelude to an invasion and say this would trigger “massive” sanctions against Moscow. Russia denies any plans to invade but wants sweeping security guarantees.
“We expect decisions,” Kuleba said. “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 appeared to reject the idea of immediate sanctions, saying he still saw room for diplomacy.
Speaking shortly before Kuleba, Borrell told reporters he would convene an extraordinary EU meeting to agree sanctions “when the moment comes”.
TALKS ‘BADLY NEEDED’
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.
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.
“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.”
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Marine Strauss, Timothy Heritage and Gareth Jones)