EU extends sanctions to Putin’s allies

Deputy Russian prime minister and media head put on sanctions list

Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (second from right) and EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy (right) exchange documents during the signing ceremony of political provisions of the Association Agreement with Ukraine at the second day of spring European head of states summit at the EU council headquaters in Brussels, yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Olivier Hoslet

Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (second from right) and EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy (right) exchange documents during the signing ceremony of political provisions of the Association Agreement with Ukraine at the second day of spring European head of states summit at the EU council headquaters in Brussels, yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Olivier Hoslet

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 01:00


The EU yesterday extended sanctions to close allies of Russian president

Vladimir Putin, including the deputy prime minister and the head of a Russian news agency yesterday, as the 28 member states of the European Union signed an integration pact with Ukraine.

Among the 12 individuals targeted in the EU’s new sanctions list are the head of the Rossiya Segodnya state news agency, Dmitry Kiselyov, who is termed a “central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine”, by the EU.

While the sanctions list included two senior aides to Mr Putin as well as deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, it refrained from targeting business figures.

Russian equity and bond markets, which have been on a downward spiral since the Russian incursion into Ukraine, fell sharply yesterday as markets responded to a fresh round of US and EU sanctions, while the rouble continued to weaken, despite a slight afternoon rally.


Current crisis
In a strong political statement of support for Ukraine, leaders of the 28 EU member states yesterday publicly signed the political chapters of the association agreement spurned by President Victor Yanukovich in November which sparked the current crisis.

Speaking after the signing of the integration pact, Ukraine’s interim prime minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said the signing of the document meant that the EU is speaking in “one strong, single voice”.

“The best way to contain Russia is to impose real economic leverage over them, “ he said.

While leaders stopped short of imposing so-called “Phase 3” sanctions, which would involve broader economic restrictions, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the EU was prepared to move to a further stage of sanctions if necessary, with the European Commission already undertaking preparatory work on possible future sanction targets.

“The council agreed that any further steps taken by Russia to destabilise the situation would lead to additional and far-reaching consequences,including broader economic sanctions,” the Taoiseach said following the meeting.

He added that the European Commission had also been tasked with evaluating the legal consequences of the illegal annexation of Crimea. EU leaders also moved forward with plans to deploy an Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission to Russia, which would involve 500-600 representatives. The decision to sign the association agreement received widespread support from EU leaders.


Sign of solidarity
German chancellor Angela Merkel described the agreement as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine, offering a concrete basis for dialogue on political affairs and reforms. However, she said it was too soon to talk about formal EU accession for the country. “With this association agreement we have given a clear signal that we would like to bind Ukraine to us,” she said after yesterday’s summit.

“The association agreement stands for itself. Many people went on the street to insist that it was signed. I would advise people to wait for Ukrainian elections . . . to see how things develop further. Only then can Europe react.”

Despite different views on the Crimean crisis, in particular the imposition of further sanctions on Russia, the two-day Brussels meeting ended with widespread unity among EU leaders.

French president François Hollande called on Russia to “understand it cannot continue, that it must take the path of dialogue”.

Nervousness about Russia’s intentions –and demands for deeper economic sanctions – is greatest among ex-eastern bloc countries. Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaite conceded yesterday that, though the EU was not always the quickest to react, it had found united positions on the Crimean crisis.

Even leaders who have pushed for de-escalation of the crisis backed yesterday’s agreement. Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann brushed off Russian concerns, saying Mr Putin was known for strong reactions regardless of the EU’s agreement with Ukraine. “It would be a completely wrong signal to pull back from something already on the table because of outside pressure,” said Mr Faymann.


Territorial integrity
In their summit conclusions, leaders praised the “measured response” shown so far by the interim Kiev administration and restated the EU’s commitment to upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. “The European Council does not recognise the illegal referendum in Crimea,” the leaders said. “It strongly condemns the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation and will not recognise it.”

The EU yesterday cancelled an upcoming EU-Russia summit and vowed to hold no bilateral meetings with Russia.

Next week’s G7 meeting will go ahead in The Hague, though Mr Putin had long since cancelled his attendance and will be represented instead by his foreign minister.