EU working on joint response to Russian letter -von der Leyen

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HELSINKI, Feb 3 (Reuters) – The European Union is working on a joint response to a letter many of its member countries received from Russia earlier this week asking for security guarantees, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday.

Russia has forced the U.S.-led NATO alliance and the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to negotiate over regional security by massing around 100,000 troops near Ukraine while denying it plans to invade.

“We are working on the coordination of the response…We are united in the European Union and therefore it is clear that the response will mirror, will reflect that unity,” von der Leyen told reporters on a visit in Helsinki.

Earlier this week, Russia wrote to NATO and OSCE member countries, including Finland, asking for legally binding security guarantees.

“First and foremost Russia needs to de-escalate,” said Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, with whom von der Leyen met in Helsinki.

Finland, which shares the EU’s longest external border with Russia and is not a member of U.S.-led NATO, has looked with growing concern at its neighbour’s increasing aggressiveness.

Von der Leyen called for Russia to return to a path of “peace and dialogue”.

“In case that there is any further military aggression against Ukraine, there will be financial and economic sanctions on our part…We hope this is not necessary,” she said.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Jon Boyle and Mark Heinrich)

Photo – Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin during her visit to Helsinki, Finland. EC Audiovisual Service

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