EU sanctions separatists as Ukraine crisis deepens

17th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

The EU agreed to blacklist more Ukrainian separatists Monday but stopped short of fresh sanctions against Russia, saying there was hope of restarting dialogue with Moscow to end the worst standoff since the Cold War.

New European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said foreign ministers meeting in Brussels had raised the possibility of her visiting Moscow for talks to seek a solution to a crisis that has claimed 4,100 lives.

But fresh fighting between Russian-backed rebels and Kiev's forces underscored the challenges facing any peace efforts, as did Moscow's tit-for-tat expulsion of several European diplomats.

World leaders chastised Russian President Vladimir Putin at a glacial G20 summit in Brisbane at the weekend over Moscow's role in the Ukraine bloodshed, causing him to fly home early.

"The main discussion today was how to re-engage in a dialogue, given that Russia is for sure part of the problem, but also part of the possible solution," Mogherini said after the Brussels meeting.

She said the EU would add more separatists to the list of 119 individuals currently facing travel bans and asset freezes.

Those previously targeted range from close Putin allies and Russian oligarchs to rebel leaders.

A final decision on the new names is due at the end of November.

The EU has long been divided over sanctions, initially limiting them to 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.

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.

Putin struck a defiant tone Monday, rejecting Western claims that Russia has sent troops and equipment into Ukraine to buttress the uprising, but saying "righteous" fighters would "always get weapons".

Moscow meanwhile said Monday it had expelled a German diplomat in retaliation for a diplomat being forced to leave Russia's consulate-general in Bonn, while several Polish diplomats were expelled for spying.

But in Brussels, Mogherini said several foreign ministers had urged her to go to Moscow for talks.

She said she would visit Kiev as soon as a new government is formed following recent elections.

"Before deciding if it's useful to go to Russia for me, first of all I would need physically and psychologically to prepare," she said with a laugh.

"But apart from that, we need.

to check if the conditions are there for the meeting to be fruitful.

"As the former foreign minister of Italy, which has historically had close relations with Russia, Mogherini's appointment was initially opposed by some eastern EU states who thought she would be too cosy with Moscow.

She would not say if EU leaders meeting in December were likely to add to the broader economic sanctions against Moscow, given reservations among some member states that rely on Russia for trade and gas.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin urged Brussels to go further, 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.

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 Dutch Safety Board said it "went well", with the tail section of the plane being recovered, saying that the task could be completed within five days if the weather stays stable.

At the G20 summit, Western leaders including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron had denounced Putin's "unacceptable" actions in Ukraine.

Cameron told parliament on Monday that Britain was "ready to intensify sanctions" despite the "economic cost".

© 2014 AFP

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