6 Mar 2014

Ukraine crisis: Russian provocation stiffens EU resolve

In the end, Germany France and the UK ended up arguing for a similar statement at the special EU summit on Ukraine and broadly got it.

The EU has announced an escalating scale of punishments contingent on Russia’s behaviour. But as it escalates, it gets less specific.

David Cameron said it was a lot better than he’d hoped and there was a strong message for President Putin in the warnings.

Leaders of EU meet

Poland’s prime minister said the session had been “stormy.”

Austria, the Netherlands and Hungary worried openly about the economic consequences for their own countries of any economic sanctions.

Some, like Lithuania’s Premier Gediminas Kirkilas, told fellow EU leaders there was real fear in her region and the messages so far from the EU had not been strong enough.

One EU source said Britain had been “all over the place” in recent weeks on Ukraine and “absent for three months” as the EU discussed the issue before the latest crisis peaked, but that today in Brussels David Cameron had helped to steer the conversation in the room.

President Hollande said Russia’s decision to flout all calls for de-escalation with a speeded up referendum in Crimea had egged on some countries to tougher action than they might have considered 24 hours earlier.


Critics will say the escalating series of sanctions unveiled gets noticably less specific as it gets supposedly graver. What are “far-reaching” measures?

David Cameron insisted that all sorts of sanctions were “on the agenda” if Russia errs again, but not that they were agreed. They are not.

The European Commission is being “tasked” with looking into what extra punishments might look like.

The first level of punishment for Russia’s first major act of international wrongdoing – effectively seizing Crimea from Ukraine – remains, as agreed by EU foreign ministers, a halt to preparatory meetings for the G8 and the cancellation of some talks on speeding up visas.

The acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had a series of powerful photo opportunities which his aides kept grabbing on i-phones and filing back home.

Amongst them, a moment standing side by side with the Nato Secretary General at Nato’s headquarters in Brussels.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Yatsenyuk is welcomed by NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels

He was asked in a press conference if that wasn’t a bit provocative and was he planning to apply to join Nato?

He said Nato was one of the tools needed to fix global security, and as for joining up “it’s not on our radar.”

Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Kerry met in Rome today.

In a press conference, Secretary Kerry just said that Mr Lavrov had agreed to take some “suggestions” from the US to President Putin in Sochi, where he is in town again for the opening of the Winter Paralympics.

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