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EU Said Unlikely To Impose New Sanctions Over Attack In Britain

EU Council President Donald Tusk
EU Council President Donald Tusk

BRUSSELS -- The European Union is unlikely to introduce new sanctions against Russia after the nerve-toxin poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England 11 days ago, people familiar with the matter have told RFE/RL.

Leaders will likely include language in the closing statement of an upcoming EU meeting expressing solidarity with Britain, but no one has so far pushed for the idea of further sanctions against Moscow, according to officials who did not want to be identified because they are not authorized to speak on the matter.

The comments came on March 15, as tensions rose between the West and Moscow over allegations that Russian responsibility is the "only plausible explanation" for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.

The leaders of France, Germany, the United States, and Britain said in a joint statement on March 15 that they “abhor” the attack and called it an assault on British sovereignty and "a breach of international law."

Britain on March 14 said it would expel 23 Russian diplomats and halt high-level contacts as part of a package of measures against Moscow in response to the incident.

Russia denies any involvement and has vowed a swift response to what it called Britain's "destructive" moves.

The comments come ahead of several high-level meetings scheduled in the next several days, including the EU meeting on March 22 that will likely express support for Britain in its joint declaration.

European Council President Donald Tusk has said that the Salisbury incident demonstrated the need for "transatlantic unity."

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson is scheduled to brief his EU counterparts at a March 19 meeting of the bloc’s Foreign Affairs Council.

The EU imposed a series of sanctions against Russia, targeting its energy and banking sectors, in 2014 after the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and Moscow's support for separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Renewal of those sanctions is expected to be discussed when EU leaders meet in Brussels at the end of June.

The EU recently extended for six months asset freezes and visa bans on 150 separatists and Russian officials as well as 38 entities, such as separatist battalions and companies in Crimea that Brussels says are responsible for the “destabilization of Ukraine's territorial integrity.”

Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain critically ill after being found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on March 4. A British police officer who first responded to the incident was also hospitalized in serious condition and at least 21 other people were treated for exposure to the substance.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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