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EU issues no sanctions in Ukraine-Russia conflict to avoid escalation

EU issues no sanctions in Ukraine-Russia conflict to avoid escalation

dpa
Brussels
EU foreign ministers on Monday decided not to ramp up pressure on Russia for amassing troops at Ukraine’s border in an effort to solve tensions diplomatically.
“The risk of further escalation is evident. We have to commend Ukraine for its restrained response and we urge Russia to de-escalate and to diffuse tensions,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said after a videoconference with the 27 ministers.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who called on the European Union for more support over the weekend - potentially by sanctioning Russia - also dialled into Monday’s talks.
Support for such an approach came from Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who said before the talks began that he hoped Europe would “speak in one voice, saying that Russia needs to draw away its troops and stop the escalation.” The EU should also make clear it is “ready to consider sanctions if red lines are crossed,” Landsbergis said.
But the majority of foreign ministers on Monday did not consider such red lines to have been crossed, and the bloc did not issue any additional sanctions against Russia. The bloc has hit its eastern neighbour with a slew of punitive measures over the past months, including for the near-fatal poisoning of opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
The recent troop deployment is considered the largest since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The numbers are disputed, however.
“More than 150,000 Russian troops [are] amassing at the Ukrainian borders and in Crimea,” Borrell said after the meeting - but declined to indicate the source of the figure.
According to US estimates, Russia has recently moved 15,000 to 25,000 troops onto the annexed Crimean peninsula and towards the Ukrainian border.
In the meeting, the ministers had spoken about 120,000 troops in the country or ready for deployment, EU diplomats told dpa.
In a bid to keep tensions down, the bloc is putting its bets on talks in the so-called Normandy format. As part of these informal talks, Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine attempt to find a solution to the conflict through diplomatic means. Speaking after the meeting, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Russia to de-escalate the situation.
“Moscow should switch from provocation to cooperation,” he said.
Together with France, Germany would push for the full implementation of the Minsk Protocol, an agreement that sets out terms to stop the military conflict in the disputed region in Ukraine.

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