UPDATE – EU leaders held an emergency summit in Brussels on Thursday in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and agreed on sanctions designed to impose “massive and severe consequences” on Moscow. “These sanctions cover the financial sector, the energy and transport sectors, dual-use goods as well as export control and export financing, visa policy, additional listings of Russian individuals and new listing criteria”.
“Russia bears full responsibility for this act of aggression and all the destruction and loss of life it will cause. It will be held accountable for its actions.” The Council says it will “adopt without delay” the proposals prepared by the Commission and top diplomat. It also recommends a further package of measures against Belarus. Read more on Euronews/POLITICO
European Council conclusions on Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine
- The European Council condemns in the strongest possible terms the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine. By its illegal military actions, Russia is grossly violating international law and the principles of the UN Charter and undermining European and global security and stability. The European Council underlines that this includes the right of Ukraine to choose its own destiny. Russia bears full responsibility for this act of aggression and all the destruction and loss of life it will cause. It will be held accountable for its actions.
- The European Council demands that Russia immediately ceases its military actions, unconditionally withdraws all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine and fully respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders. The European Council calls on Russia and Russia-backed armed formations to respect international humanitarian law and stop their disinformation campaign and cyber-attacks.
- The European Council deplores the tragic loss of life and human suffering caused by the Russian aggression. It stands in solidarity with the women, men and children whose lives have been affected by this unjustified and unjustifiable attack. It calls on Russia and Russia-backed armed formations to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access and assistance to all persons in need.
- The European Council also strongly condemns the involvement of Belarus in this aggression against Ukraine and calls on it to refrain from such action and to abide by its international obligations.
- The EU has reacted swiftly and decisively to Russia’s recognition of Ukraine’s self-proclaimed separatist entities and deployment of its armed forces by adopting restrictive measures in response. The European Council today agrees on further restrictive measures that will impose massive and severe consequences on Russia for its action, in close coordination with our partners and allies. These sanctions cover the financial sector, the energy and transport sectors, dual-use goods as well as export control and export financing, visa policy, additional listings of Russian individuals and new listing criteria. The Council will adopt without delay the proposals prepared by the Commission and the High Representative.
- The European Council calls for the urgent preparation and adoption of a further individual and economic sanctions package that will also cover Belarus.
- The European Council reiterates its unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. It calls on all countries not to recognise the two self-proclaimed separatist entities and not to facilitate or in any way assist them.
- The EU is united in its solidarity with Ukraine and will continue to support Ukraine and its people together with its international partners, including through additional political, financial, humanitarian and logistical support and an international donors’ conference. Following the December 2016 decision by the EU Heads of State or Government, the European Council acknowledges the European aspirations and the European choice of Ukraine, as stated in the Association Agreement.
- The European Council firmly believes that the use of force and coercion to change borders has no place in the 21st century. Tensions and conflict should be resolved exclusively through dialogue and diplomacy. The EU will continue cooperating closely with neighbours and reiterates its unwavering support for, and commitment to, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and of the Republic of Moldova. It will continue strong coordination with partners and allies, within the UN, OSCE, NATO and the G7.
- The European Council calls for taking forward the work on preparedness and readiness at all levels and invites the Commission, in particular, to put forward contingency measures, including on energy.
BRUSSELS, Feb 24 (Reuters) – European Union leaders said on Thursday they would slap harsh new sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, targetting Russia elites and hitting its economy hard.
The new sanctions will include freezing Russian assets in the 27-nation bloc, halting banks’ access to European financial markets and hitting “Kremlin interests”.
European Parliament president Roberta Metsola called the invasion of Ukraine an attempt to destabilise Europe, and said that “no attack in Europe by Russia will go unanswered.”
Metsola said that the European Parliament’s position was for new, swift and severe sanctions against Russia, as well as increased assistance to Ukraine, and European readiness to absorb a humanitarian suffering.
“We would like the strongest possible sanctions to go out tonight,” Metsola said when asked specifically whether these sanctions should include those relating to energy, Russia being a major gas supplier.
The bloc will also target Russia’s trade, energy and transport, among other sectors, and include export controls, in what the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell described as “the harshest package of sanctions we have ever implemented.”
“Our sanctions will hurt the Russian economy in its heart,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said as he arrived for an emergency summit of EU leaders.
But a sense of Western leaders’ powerlessness to stop a war they had seen coming could be felt even before the summit began.
“We were not successful enough, not decisive enough to prevent Russia from this step, which is a tragedy for Ukraine, a tragedy for Europe and a tragedy for Russia itself,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said.
“I believe still in the potential … of the EU in preventing such actions in the middle of Europe. For this we need to take action,” he said. “Tomorrow might be too late.”
There are differences of view across the 27 member states over how far to go with sanctions, with some that could face the harshest economic backlash themselves pressing to keep the most severe steps in reserve.
That became immediately clear, with De Croo saying the bundle of sanctions on the table needed to be extended.
“We need sanctions that bite and … in a very thorough way. And I don’t think we should be coming back for a third package, the second package needs to be the good one,” he said.
Russian forces rained missiles on Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, and landed troops on its Black and Azov Sea coasts on Thursday, in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two. Read full story
‘MASSIVE AND SEVERE CONSEQUENCES’
The summit will also discuss offering EU candidate status to Ukraine, Nauseda said earlier, a step Kyiv has long called for, though it may not win approval from all leaders. Read full story
A draft of the summit’s conclusions, seen by Reuters, said the new round of sanctions “will impose massive and severe consequences on Russia for its action, in close coordination with our partners and allies.”
Russian assets in the EU would be frozen and Russian banks’ access to Europe’s financial markets would be stopped.
However, cutting Russia off the SWIFT global interbank payments system, one of the toughest steps the West could impose, is unlikely to be agreed at this stage, EU sources said.
Differing levels of dependency on Russian gas across EU member states could complicate the adoption of sanctions or limit their ambition, with some keen to see a gradual approach.
“Whereas some members have pushed for stronger sanctions in the face of a full-out Russian invasion, others are reluctant,” one EU diplomat said.
The diplomat said Italy, Germany and Cyprus are among those that prefer a step-by-step approach, while Central European and Baltic states – those closest to Russia – want a harder stance.
“We support the most serious package of sanctions against Russia,” Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa said, wearing a tie with the Ukrainian flag’s yellow and blue colours. “Russia needs to feel that the price of aggression is significant.”
The EU approved a first round of sanctions on Wednesday, including blacklisting Russian politicians and curbing trade between the EU and two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine whose independence Moscow has recognised. Read full story
The EU will also prepare new sanctions against Belarus. Ukraine’s border guard service said Russian troops used Belarus as one of their entry points with Belarusian support.
The EU will also prepare a new aid package for Ukraine and help with evacuation operations, including of EU staff.
Latvia’s PM says Putin and his regime need to be isolated from the world
Russian President Vladimir Putin is fighting democracy with his decision to invade Ukraine, and the European Union must take sanctions that isolate him for the rest of the world, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said on Thursday.
“We need to say very clearly to Putin that this is by no means acceptable and the general direction is to isolate ever more Putin and his regime from the rest of the world through the various sanctions”, Karins told reporters before an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders.
“Putin is fighting against democracy (…) If he can attack Ukraine, theoretically it could be any other European country”, he added.
Estonia says cutting Russia off SWIFT under discussion in EU
Cutting Russia off SWIFT is being discussed by European Union countries in retribution for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and could – but did not need to – be agreed among the bloc’s leaders meeting on Thursday, Estonian Premier Kaja Kallas told reporters as she arrived at an emergency meeting of EU leaders.
Polish PM says EU has to be united on massive sanctions on Russia
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Russian President Vladimir Putin was destabilising the whole of Europe with his decision to invade Ukraine, adding the European Union should be united around “massive sanctions” targeting Putin and Russia.
“We have to stop him. How can we stop him? We have to be united around sanctions”, Morawiecki told reporters as he arrived at an emergency meeting of EU leaders.
“I believe we have to really act in a very decisive way … we cannot allow Putin to cross another Rubicon”, he said.
Up to EU leaders to decide on banning Russia from SWIFT, top diplomat says
The European Union will blacklist more people to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, the bloc’s top diplomat said, adding it was up to the Union’s 27 national leaders meeting from 1900 GMT on Thursday to decide whether to cut Moscow off from SWIFT.
“New people will be (sanctioned), also from Belarus, with a complex package, with economic sectors (…) more sanctions on the financial sector (…)”, said EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.