December 22, 2014
EU broadens sanctions, Ukraine separatists halt talks on detainees
The European Union released details of broadened sanctions imposed on Russia today. The Union froze assets and banned visas on 15 Russian officials and Ukrainian rebel leaders. In response, Ukraine separatist refused talks on detained European observers if sanctions remain.
The EU targeted a number of high-ranking Russian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, and Russia's senior general, Valery Gerasimov, and pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine, but steered clear of sanctions on business leaders.
The decision brings to 48 the number of people that the EU has put under sanctions for actions it says have undermined Ukraine's territorial integrity.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said developments in eastern Ukraine ran counter to the agreement reached by Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the EU in Geneva this month aimed at defusing the crisis.
But the EU's sanctions against Russia so far have been much weaker than those of the United States, which imposed sanctions on Monday on seven Russians, including Igor Sechin, head of oil giant Rosneft, and 17 companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Washington will also deny export licences for high-technology items that could help the Russian armed forces
The EU has threatened to move to hard-hitting sanctions that would target specific sectors of the Russian economy if the Ukraine situation deteriorates, but it has been vague about what would trigger tough sanctions and many EU governments are deeply reluctant about going down that road.
Moscow suggested the European Union should be ashamed of itself for "doing Washington's bidding" by punishing Russia with sanctions.
The sanctions also affected the situation of the detained military observers in eastern Ukraine. The self-declared mayor of separatist-held town of Slaviansk said he would discuss the release of detained observers with the West only if the European Union dropped sanctions against rebel leaders.
Two rebel leaders in Ukraine were included in a new list of officials hit by EU sanctions. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the de facto mayor of Slaviansk, told Interfax news agency the measures against Denis Pushilin, leader of the self-styled People's Republic of Donetsk, and Andrei Purgin, another leader in the eastern region, were "not conducive to dialogue".
"We will resume dialogue on the status of the prisoners of war only when the European Union rejects these sanctions," he said of the observers, who were in Ukraine under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a democracy watchdog.
The Ukrainian government said it had a plan to secure the release of the six observers, seized last week by separatists who said they had found a spy with them, and that it hoped they would soon be free but gave no details.