EU imposes tough new sanctions on Crimea

Move targets investment, property, exports and travel to annexed peninsula

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. Photo: EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. Photo: EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

 

EU leaders have backed a plan for more punitive sanctions against Crimea, including a ban on European cruise ships docking in Sevastapol, as Russian president Vladimir Putin accused Europe of trying to make the Russian bear into “a stuffed animal.”

The move to outlaw investment was taken “to reinforce the EU’s policy of not recognising the illegal annexation by Russia” of Crimea and Sevastapol, the EU said in a statement.

Under the new measures, EU individuals and companies will be prohibited from buying property or entities in the region, and supplying related services. EU tour operators will only be permitted to call at ports in the Crimean peninsula in case of emergency.

The export of certain goods in the transport, telecoms and energy sectors to Crimean companies has also been prohibited. The new measures, which are additional to an import ban on goods from the region which is already in place, will enter into effect on Saturday. In addition, the EU and the US have already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian individuals and companies since first introducing sanctions in March.

Speaking in the Bundestag, before leaving for Brussels yesterday, German leader Angela Merkel urged European leaders to maintain a united front with Russia in the Ukraine conflict or risk the sovereignty regained by central and eastern Europe 25 years ago.

“This would be a new division of Europe . . . a considerable step back for Ukraine, for European security and for Europe as a whole,” she told lawmakers.

‘Much patience’

After a telephone call with the Russian president on Tuesday, she said it was important to hold a meeting soon of the contact group of Russia, Ukraine and the OECD.

“The goal of our actions remains ensuring the strength of law is asserted, and not the law of strength,” she said “Our goal is, and remains, European security with – and not against – Russia.”

“It depends on Russia whether it takes us up on our offer of dialogue. As long as we haven’t achieved that goal, sanctions are unavoidable. But I state it again: they are not a means to an end.”

Dr Merkel also vowed to maintain Germany’s economic and political support for Ukraine, particularly with the delivery of humanitarian help in the winter months.

The Russian rouble fell again after Mr Putin’s press conference, during which he failed to announce any further specific measures to counter the currency’s drop in value. Russia’s central bank has raised interest rates twice this week in a bid to prop up the ailing currency, which has slumped, mainly due to the impact of falling oil prices and the sanctions against Russia.

Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, said Mr Putin’s comments about Europe showed EU sanctions against Russia were working. “It’s not a surprise. It was expected he would look for somebody to blame, and not himself,” she said.

Ms Grybauskaite said it was too early to say if sanctions against Russia would be extended when they come up for renewal next March.

Finnish prime minister Alex Stubb said the decline in the Russian economy was a concern. “Russia is Finland’s biggest trading partner together with Sweden and Germany. No one wants to see a decline in the Russian economy that’s bad news for the world economy, but I think we have to be principled, we have to stick to our core values of liberal values and also independence and respecting national sovereignty. Russia hasn’t done that and is paying the price.