EU foreign ministers to discuss Ukraine crisis

German, Polish and French ministers met president Yanukovich this morning

Foreign ministers of the EU's 28 member states are due to meet in Brussels this afternoon for emergency talks on Ukraine.

The crisis in Kiev has escalated with more than 20 people killed in violence this morning, despite earlier suggestions a truce had been reached.

The meeting, which had been scheduled for 2pm, is now due to begin at 3pm, to facilitate the arrival from Kiev of three foreign ministers who travelled to Ukraine this morning to meet president Victor Yanukovich.

French foreign minister Pierre Moscovici, recently-elected German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Radoslaw Sikorski, the foreign minister of Ukraine's neighbour Poland, visited the Ukrainian capital.


Despite earlier reports that Mr Yanukovich had refused to meet the trio, talks took place this morning amid tight security.

The meeting in Brussels will today consider the imposition of sanctions on Ukraine, marking a distinctive shift in the EU’s response to the crisis.

Over the past few months, Lithuania and Sweden have been virtually alone in calling for sanctions on Ukraine, with most member states favouring a diplomatic approach to the crisis. But the escalation of violence, and the convening of an emergency meeting of foreign ministers, together with the visit of the three foreign ministers to Ukraine, means the EU is likely to impose restrictive measures including financial sanctions and travel restrictions.

The current unrest in Ukraine was sparked by the government’s shock decision in November to reject an “association agreement”, which would have given the former Soviet republic access to EU trade and visa arrangements.

Negotiations between the European Union and Ukraine had been ongoing for almost five years, as part of the EU's "Eastern Partnership" policy which aims to deepen the European Union's relations with six former Soviet Republics, the largest of which is Ukraine.

Former European Parliament president Pat Cox was heavily involved in the process, as one of the European Parliament's two envoys to Ukraine, meeting with Mr Yanucovich in the weeks leading up to the November summit in Vilnius, at which an agreement was expected to be signed.

Russia had threatened Ukraine with punitive trade and energy measures should it sign the agreement with the EU.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent