Ukraine crisis: Sanctions against Russia unanimously approved by European Union
- The 27 EU member nations have unanimously agreed on an initial set of sanctions aimed at Russia
- The package passed will hurt Russia a lot as per EU foreign affairs leader Josep Borrell
- The move will reportedly impact Russian action pertaining to Ukraine
The 27 European Union member nations have unanimously agreed on an initial set of sanctions aimed at Russian officials for their activities in Ukraine, according to French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drianance.
The package passed Tuesday, according to EU foreign affairs leader Josep Borrell, "will hurt Russia, and it will hurt a lot."
Members of Russia's lower house of parliament and others engaged in sanctioning the deployment of Russian soldiers to separatist-held territories of eastern Ukraine, according to Borrell.
“This story is not finished,” said Borrell of Russian actions in Ukraine.
World leaders moved quickly Tuesday in reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin's order to deploy soldiers to separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, in the hopes of preventing a full-fledged war in Europe.
The first major measure came from Germany, which took steps to block the certification process for Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a profitable agreement that Moscow has long desired but that the US has condemned for increasing Europe's reliance on Russian energy supply.
The rest of the European Union also played its cards, announcing that its sanctions would target a number of Russian officials as well as banks that fund Russia's armed forces, as well as restricting Moscow's access to EU money and financial markets. On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson named five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals as targets of penalties.
The United States was moving closer to sanctions too, with the White House calling Russia’s troop deployments an “invasion” — a red line that President Joe Biden has said would result in heavy U.S. sanctions against Moscow. Action could follow later Tuesday.
And if Putin pushes further into Ukraine, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg insisted the West would move in lockstep. “If Russia decides once again to use force against Ukraine, there will be even stronger sanctions, even a higher price to pay,” he said.
The West said that Putin's bold measures in Ukraine were in violation of numerous international agreements, and that because diplomacy had failed, it was time to take action.
Because Western nations have long stated that the destiny of Ukraine was not worth a direct military conflict with Russia and the risk of a global war, sanctions were the sole, albeit restricted, option for expressing their displeasure.
“No lows too low, no lies too blatant, no red lines too red to cross,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said in summing up the political disgust felt by nations from Europe to North America and the democracies hugging Russia’s borders in Asia like Japan and South Korea.
Putin, on the other hand, continued to throw the world off with a plan in which the exact scope of an invasion, which would inevitably trigger severe sanctions, remained unclear and controversial.
Russia declared it was sending "peacekeepers" to eastern Ukraine, while EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell emphasised that they were "troops" on Ukrainian soil.
“I wouldn’t say that’s a fully-fledged invasion, but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil," Borrell said.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace didn't mince words. “Russia has already invaded Ukraine. They did it in 2014, occupied illegally Crimea and Donbas. This is a further invasion of their sovereign territory," Wallace said.
Whatever the label, the current events have thrown the EU's 27-nation bloc into high alert, with foreign ministers meeting later Tuesday to discuss how severe a first round of penalties will be.
It will most likely fall far short of the "huge" package threatened by the EU and the US for a complete military invasion into Kiyv-controlled national territory.
“The way we respond will define us for the generations to come,” Simonyte said.
Too much too soon, though, could also hurt the international response, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said.
“There is a variety of sanctions options that now need to be used in a targeted way, because we have to assume that we haven’t yet reached the peak of the escalation,” he said.
Britain's Johnson was thinking in the same vein.
“This the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed,” Johnson told British lawmakers.
A confrontation in Ukraine may wreak havoc on the country's economy, as well as Europe's, which is largely reliant on Russian energy. Asian countries, on the other hand, are concerned.
President Moon Jae-in has told his officials to prepare for the economic consequences in South Korea if the Ukraine conflict deepens and US-backed countries impose harsh economic penalties on Russia.
The chances of a big confrontation being avoided are diminishing. Putin's order came just hours after he recognised two separatist territories in Ukraine, establishing Russian military support and enraging Western leaders who saw it as a breach of international law.
Putin has blamed NATO for the current situation, describing the US-led alliance as a threat to Russia's existence.
The global condemnation came amid rising skirmishes in the eastern regions of Ukraine that Western powers believe Russia could use as a pretext for an attack on the Europe-leaning democracy that has defied Moscow’s attempts to pull it back into its orbit.
NATO member Turkey, which has close relations with both Ukraine and Russia, criticized Moscow's decision to recognize the independence of the regions in eastern Ukraine.
“We consider this decision by Russia as being unacceptable,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “We reiterate our calls to the parties to respect common sense and international law.”
China, a Russian ally, took a cautious approach, urging moderation and a diplomatic solution to the problem.
Additional actions, most likely sanctions, were to be revealed Tuesday after the White House signed an executive order restricting investment and commerce in the separatist regions. According to a senior administration source who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, those sanctions are separate from what Washington has planned in the event of a Russian invasion.
The US has warned that Moscow has already chosen to invade, with an estimated 150,000 Russian troops stationed on three flanks of Ukraine. Nonetheless, in a last-ditch effort to avoid war, Biden and Putin tentatively agreed to meet, mediated by French President Emmanuel Macron.
(with inputs from AP)