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EU Passes New Russia Sanctions, But Leaves Timing Open

  • RFE/RL

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) is followed by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy as they arrive for a joint news conference after an EU-Russia Summit in Brussels in January.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) is followed by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy as they arrive for a joint news conference after an EU-Russia Summit in Brussels in January.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy says the European Union has formally adopted new sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, adding that they will go into force in the next few days.

Van Rompuy said in a statement that the package of sanctions, which deepens targeted measures announced in July, was adopted through written procedure.

The news came after member states delayed a procedure that reportedly would have automatically triggered the punitive measures on September 9.

EU ambassadors gathered in Brussels to discuss the issue amid signs of cracks in their front to combat Moscow's actions in Ukraine, where Western governments and Russian nongovernment sources say there are thousands of Russian troops and increasing amounts of heavy weapons supplied by Moscow.

Russia denies that it is deploying soldiers or sending weapons across their shared border.

Ratification of the sanctions would have been automatic if no EU member state objected, but at least one EU country appeared to oppose the timing of the plan.

Reports suggested the objector was Finland, but that was not immediately confirmed.

Earlier on September 8, EU diplomats said that the proposed new sanctions included a ban on loans and financing from EU countries to major Russian energy firms -- including Rosneft, Transneft, and Gazprom Neft.

Rosneft already has been sanctioned by the United States for Russia’s role supporting eastern Ukraine’s separatists.

The latest round of sanctions were agreed by EU leaders on the sidelines of NATO’s summit in Wales on September 5.

The move came despite the shaky Russian-proposed cease-fire in eastern Ukraine.

Inside View

From RFE/RL'S Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak:

It is a very messy situation.

Officially, Finland has taken the blame for stopping the new sanctions from taking effect for now. Their prime minister last night said that they are supporting the sanctions but that they need more time to implement them.

But there are more countries in that camp, including Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Bulgaria, and Cyprus. They are all happy for this to just to go away. The more "hardcore" countries are obviously not too happy with this but both the Swedish and Lithuanian diplomats I spoke to seem to concede that there has been some improvement in Russian-Ukrainian relations in the last 48 hours to warrant a more cautious approach.

They are also pointing to the fact that there was a sort of compromise on September 8 because the statement by Herman Van Rompuy says that the measures will enter into force with the publication in the EU's official journal in the next few days.

But as I understand it, the sanctions might very well be published but also annulled at the same time so they never properly enter into force. The key sentence of the statement reads: "Depending on the situation on the ground, the EU stands ready to review the agreed sanctions in whole or in part."

Already on September 10 at 11.00 ambassadors will meet again to assess the implementation of the cease-fire and the peace plan. If there is no deterioration, the sanctions might very well never enter into force.

The EU has said the sanctions could be suspended if Moscow honors the conditions of the cease-fire and pulls its troops out of Ukrainian territory.

In Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has threatened an unspecified “reaction” if more sanctions are implemented.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told the Russian daily newspaper "Vedomosti" on September 8 that Western airlines could be banned from Russian airspace "if there are sanctions related to the energy sector, or further restrictions on Russia's financial sector.”

In Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko on September 8 visited the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol and announced that he has ordered government troops there to be reinforced with tanks, rocket launchers, and air defenses.

Russian news agencies also quoted Poroshenko as saying that Kyiv had agreed with a number of NATO member countries on the direct supply of arms to Ukraine.

A senior aide to Poroshenko said September 7 Kyiv had agreed at the NATO summit in Wales on the provision of weapons and military advisers from five NATO member states, but four of the five swiftly denied any such deal had been reached.

Poroshenko also said that pro-Russian separatists had released 1,200 Ukrainian prisoners-of-war in line with the terms of the cease-fire.

But he said another 863 Ukrainians remain in captivity and that Kyiv is doing everything possible to secure their release.

The acting head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on September 8 that the cease-fire is not enough to end Ukraine’s conflict.

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter told reporters in Geneva, "We need a political process, national dialogue [and] dialogue between the two presidents," adding that the OSCE was "ready to help."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak, Interfax, "Vedomosti," and BBC
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