EU sanctions separatists as Ukraine crisis deepens

17th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

The EU agreed Monday to blacklist more Ukrainian separatists but stopped short of fresh economic sanctions against Russia, as Moscow expelled several diplomats in a deepening of the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

Fresh bloodshed between pro-Kremlin rebels and Kiev's forces added to the tensions after Russian President Vladimir Putin left a G20 summit in Brisbane early amid criticism from fellow leaders.

Putin hit back Monday, rejecting western claims that Russia has sent troops and equipment into Ukraine to buttress the uprising that has killed 4,100 people, while saying "righteous" fighters would "always get weapons".

In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers agreed to add more separatists to a blacklist of people facing asset freezes and travel bans over the crisis in Ukraine, diplomats told AFP.

There would be a final decision on the names at the end of the month, they said.

But Russia escaped further economic sanctions, with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini saying sanctions should be accompanied by talks with Moscow and reforms in Ukraine.

"Sanctions in themselves are not an objective," she said.

The EU has so far blacklisted 119 individuals, ranging from close Putin allies and Russian oligarchs, to separatists in Ukraine.

- Moscow needs 'clear message' -Kiev urged the EU to go further, with Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin calling for Brussels to send a "clear message" to Moscow, with "robust" sanctions if Russia continues to destabilise Ukraine.

"We need a very clear message identifying the further steps the EU is ready and committed to take if the situation on the ground deteriorates," Klimkin told AFP in an interview after talks with Mogherini.

The EU has long been divided over sanctions, first targeting individuals after Russia's annexation of Crimea in March, then broadening them to target the Russian economy after the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in July over eastern Ukraine.

The West said it was downed by pro-Moscow rebels using a missile supplied by Russia.

More than 4,100 people have died in seven months of violence in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has denied backing the rebels but relations with the West are at their worst since the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago.

Moscow said Monday it had expelled a German diplomat and a number of Polish diplomats in a tit-for-tat measure for similar expulsions of Russian staff from those countries.

The Polish diplomats were expelled for conduct "incompatible with their status", diplomatic jargon for espionage, while the German was kicked out in retaliation for Berlin's "unfriendly" expulsion of a Russian diplomat, Russia's foreign ministry said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called on the West not to lose hope in what may be a long struggle with Russia over Ukraine, but vowed that the Kremlin "will not prevail".

"We need to have the necessary patience for an uphill battle," Merkel said in a speech after the Brisbane summit.

- Ten dead in new violence -Western leaders at the summit, including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, denounced Putin's "unacceptable" actions in Ukraine, warning of more sanctions to come unless he changed course.

The West would keep up the pressure for years if necessary, to get Russia to reverse course, said Cameron who branded the Russian president a "bully".

In the latest casualties in eastern Ukraine, seven Ukrainian soldiers and three police officers were killed in the past 24 hours, while one civilian was killed and eight wounded over the weekend, security officials said.

An AFP reporter in the city heard fresh shelling early Monday.

Meanwhile, workers spent a second day recovering wreckage from the doomed Malaysian Airlines plane, which was shot down en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over rebel-controlled territory.

"The recovery of wreckage of flight MH17 has been continued this morning.

For the second day wreckage will be recovered for the investigation into the cause of the crash," the Dutch Safety Board said.

The wreckage is being placed on trains and will eventually be returned to the Netherlands, which is leading the inquiry, it said.

© 2014 AFP

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