EU warns Russia of ‘massive consequences’ if it invades Ukraine

Intelligence agencies estimate up to 100,000 troops on borders raising fears of move by Moscow

France’s president Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz during a summit in Brussels. Photograph: John Thys/EPA

The European Union has warned Russia there will be "massive consequences" and a "severe cost" if it invades Ukraine, in a bid to discourage Moscow from a military incursion.

In joint conclusions reached in Brussels, the national leaders of EU member states agreed that action would be taken in co-ordination with allies if Ukraine's territorial integrity is breached.

"The European Council reiterates its full support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the joint statement agreed at the summit read. "Any further aggression against Ukraine will have massive consequences and severe cost in response, including restrictive measures co-ordinated with partners."

Some leaders met ahead of the summit with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who urged them to impose sanctions on Russia before any invasion occurs to deter a potential attack, a step that EU officials fear could be on legally shaky ground.


Western intelligence services estimate that up to 100,000 Russian troops are stationed on Ukraine’s borders, and have warned that heavy equipment has been stored in locations that would allow a swift advance, raising fears of a planned invasion.

The EU already has some sanctions in place against Russia over its 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, which remains occupied.

But Moscow denies it has plans to invade and blames the West for provoking tensions. On Friday, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov said that those expressing concerns about an invasion were seeking to provoke rash action by Kiev.

“Those who constantly stir this subject are motivated by a desire that’s opposite to avoiding a conflict – a desire to stoke the situation and provoke the government in Kiev to take ill-conceived and dangerous actions,” the diplomat said at a news conference, according to a report by Russian news agency Tass.

“I don’t want to add fuel to the fire.”

The EU statement is intended to add to similar warnings by Nato and at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the G7 large economies earlier this week, and its reference to co-ordination with partners is a nod to a potential wide-ranging international response.

However, there is division over what potential sanctions could include.

The US and eastern EU member states have long pushed Germany to reconsider the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is largely complete and would directly link Germany with Russia for gas, bypassing Ukraine, which is currently a conduit.

Current gas transit countries have long opposed the project, saying it would allow Moscow to use its access to gas as political leverage, and have pushed for the new German government led by Olaf Scholz to consider a shift in policy to block the project.

Speaking after the summit however, Mr Scholz suggested the pipeline was a matter for civil regulation, and was separate from the issue of Ukraine.

“It is a private-sector project,” he told reporters. “An authority in Germany decides on this, quite apolitically.”

Germany’s regulator has said the pipeline will not be fully certified in the first half of 2022, pending some compliance steps, but the Swiss-based consortium behind the project has begun filling it with gas.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times