EU on a warpath with Putin – Bloc to warn of ‘massive consequences’ as tensions boil over

Liz Truss warns G7 will not tolerate Russian invasion of Ukraine

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European Union leaders are to discuss Ukraine at a summit on Thursday for which draft papers raise the prospect of retaliation. However, it is understood that specific sanctions are not due to be discussed at the meeting of the European Council.

This is in spite of Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urging EU leaders to slam pre-emptive sanctions on Russia to deter a potential military attack rather than waiting until after Moscow has taken hostile action.

Zelenskiy was speaking as the EU held its latest Eastern Partnership meeting with leaders from former USSR countries, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan, for two days of talks in Brussels from Wednesday.

According to Politico, there was little appetite from EU leaders to ramp up economic pressure on Moscow with several of the bloc’s diplomats arguing it should not show its hand and hold back on threatening sanctions in case Russia invades Ukraine again.

Ukraine says Russia has 92,000 troops positioned near its border, though the Kremlin denies it is planning an invasion.

Moscow accuses Kiev of staging provocations as it readies itself to seize back lands held by separatist rebels, which Ukraine rejects.

Its armed forces amount to more than 200,000 servicemen with Western military aid boosting the country’s arsenal in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its stirring up of separatist trouble in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Politico reports Zelenskiy telling a press conference: “Our state is interested in a strong sanctions policy towards a probable escalation.

“And then I think there may or may not be a probable escalation.

“For us, it is important to have such sanctions applied before rather than after the conflict would happen.

“We have the war going on for eight years. We understand that only if the sanctions are applied prior to the date of armed conflict, that they could become the prevention mechanisms for any possible escalation.”

It is unclear whether the EU will impose sanctions with a heavy burden of proof required for their imposition made in response to particular events and upon specific people.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, speaking to the European Parliament, said: “We all have seen the reports of Russia’s massive buildup of military along Ukraine’s eastern border, and also the attempt to destabilise Ukraine from within.

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“I want to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the right of any sovereign state to determine its own future.”

She added that the EU wanted good relations with Russia, but whether that were possible dependend on the country’s behaviour.

Ms von der Leyen said: “At this point in time, Russia’s choosing an aggressive posture vis-a-vis its neighbours and – as the European Union and its G7 partners have made very clear – further aggressive acts against Ukraine will have massive costs for Russia.

“We are prepared. There’s a whole set of economic sanctions in place, targeting the financial energy sector, dual-use goods and defence.”

She warned that there would be a “robust” scaling-up and expansion of the existing sanctions.

Ms von der Leyen said: “And of course, we are ready to take additional unprecedented measures with serious consequences for Russia.”

The bloc’s sanctions currently apply to 185 people who are subject to an asset freeze and travel ban preventing them from entering or travelling through the EU.

A further 48 organisations are subject to the measures which were first applied in March 2014.

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