EU expands Russia sanctions as new Ukraine talks loom

BRUSSELS (TIP): The EU agreed on Thursday to expand its sanctions against Russia as Ukraine’s warring parties announced fresh truce talks to end a surge in fighting between Kiev and Kremlin-backed rebels.

 

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned meanwhile that the threat of further sanctions risked turning the new Cold War atmosphere into a globally destabilising “hot” armed conflict between Moscow and the West.

 

During emergency talks called after dozens died in fighting in the east Ukrainian port of Mariupol, EU foreign ministers overcame reluctance from Greece’s radical new government to reach a deal to tighten sanctions.

 

“I cannot say I am happy that we have taken this decision because the situation on the ground is nothing to be happy about,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a press conference in Brussels.

 

“But the one thing I can be happy about is that we have kept our unity.” 

 

The United States welcomed the EU move, and warned Russia that it is mulling fresh sanctions of its own.

 

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the EU agreement was “a further sign that the actions of the last several days and weeks are absolutely unacceptable and that there will be new consequences put in place.” 

 

Kiev and local officials said six civilians and five Ukrainian soldiers were killed over the previous 24 hours, adding to the UN’s confirmed death toll of 5,100 for the conflict in the former Soviet state.

 

The EU ministers agreed to extend, by six months until September, a series of targeted sanctions hitting more than 100 Russian and Ukrainian figures, which were introduced after the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, according to a statement after the talks.

 

They also agreed to come up with more names to be hit with the travel bans and asset freezes within a week.

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