Ukraine crisis: EU formally adopts new sanctions against Russia
Baird skeptical of Russia's willingness to deescalate crisis in Ukraine
The European Council on Monday formally adopted a package of further sanctions against Russia over its actions in eastern Ukraine, but is delaying the enforcement to assess the implementation of the ceasefire agreement first.
The sanctions will be implemented "in the next few days," the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said in a statement.
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He said the delay of the execution of the sanctions would leave time for "an assessment of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the peace plan."
"Depending on the situation on the ground, the EU stands ready to review the agreed sanctions in whole or in part," Van Rompuy said.
The EU sanctions are expected to be co-ordinated with a new round of U.S. sanctions, a Western diplomat said. The U.S. sanctions are ready for release, the diplomat said, but the Obama administration wants to wait to act in concert with Europe in order to maximize the impact of the sanctions and present a united front against Russia.
U.S. President Barack Obama and some European leaders have said that given their skepticism about the ceasefire, it was imperative to press forward with sanctions now. But they have said the penalties could be lifted if tensions between Ukraine and Russia ease.
The new round of Western sanctions are expected to deepen earlier penalties targeting Russia's energy and arms sectors. The penalties are also expected to tighten access to international loans, with the current ban on credits and loans of more than 90 days reduced to 30 days.
More individuals, including Russian government officials and people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, are also expected to be sanctioned, according to the diplomat, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details of the sanctions before they were formally announced.
Canada considers additional measures
On Monday, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said if more provocation and negative aspects emerge in the situation in the Ukraine, Canada would advocate strongly for additional measures.
“We remain deeply skeptical of the Russian federation's willingness to have a major deescalation in this crisis,” said Baird.
“But let's give a political solution a chance. Obviously if more provocation and more negative aspects emerge we would advocate strongly for additional measures,” he added.
Ashton paid tribute to the work the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has done, and also stressed the importance of the ceasefire.
“I want to say very clearly that we want this ceasefire to be strong and solid and continue and lead to the people of Ukraine being able to realize the choices that they've made.”
The ceasefire between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government troops appeared to be largely holding in eastern Ukraine Monday, a day after shelling and clashes rattled nerves and imperilled the peace deal.
The regional administration of Donetsk announced that Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko would be travelling to the coastal city of Mariupol on Monday, a symbolic show of strength in a government-held city that has come under rebel fire in recent days.
The area around Mariupol had remained relatively untouched by violence until recent weeks, when rebel forces pushed toward the coastal town, shelling the city's outskirts as recently as Saturday. The city is strategically placed on the Sea of Azov coastline, raising fears that the Moscow-backed rebels could be pushing to link up mainland Russia with Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in March.
The Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported Monday that 15 Ukrainian soldiers had been released by rebel forces, another key element of a peace deal between the rebels and Ukrainian troops.
The ceasefire was imposed late Friday, but was thrown into peril over the weekend by the Mariupol shelling and fighting near the airport of Donetsk. A previous 10-day ceasefire in June was riddled by reports of violations on both sides.