EU foreign ministers agree limited sanctions on Ukraine

EU representatives stay on in Ukrainian capital to continue contacts with the government and opposition

A video published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty shows Ukrainian riot police and a sniper firing from fortified positions in the direction of protesters. Video: Reuters

Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 21:51

The European Union agreed this evening to impose sanctions on those responsible for deadly violence in Ukraine and warned it would ratchet up the pressure if the situation there got worse.

As Ukraine suffered its bloodiest day since Soviet times, EU foreign ministers meeting in emergency session in Brussels decided on measures against Kiev including visa bans, asset freezes and a suspension of the export of riot control equipment like water cannon, body armour and helmets.

Although the EU cited no names, officials said those targeted for sanctions may include ministers but not President Viktor Yanukovich himself, at least for now. Protest leaders found responsible for violence could also go on the sanctions list.

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At the same time, the EU pushed on with its attempt to broker a peaceful solution to a conflict that has left dozens dead, including up to 60 people today.

The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland did not attend the Brussels meeting, as planned, after deciding to stay on in the Ukrainian capital Kiev to continue contacts with the government and opposition.

"I think (ministers) were truly alarmed, shocked by the scale of violence that has taken place, and that will drive the agenda as it drove the agenda today," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

"The work of the three ministers is crucial on the ground and we will be in constant touch with them to seek their advice and to see what efforts they are able to make, what progress they're able to make," she told a news conference.

The EU decided "as a matter of urgency to introduce targeted sanctions" against people responsible for human rights violations, violence and use of excessive force in Ukraine, the foreign ministers said in a statement.

"The scale of implementation will be taken forward in the light of developments in Ukraine," they said.

The EU will start work immediately on drawing up an initial list of people affected by sanctions but it could be several days before it is published, officials said.

Speaking after the foreign affairs meeting, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he expected the list of individuals to whom the restrictions will apply, to be agreed by the end of the week.

“The decision was made unanimously. We are targeting specifically people who are responsible for the violence,” the Tánaiste said.

“The intention is that the scale of those sancctions will be applied on a progressve basis as the situation develops in Ukraine.”

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