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EU adopts broad economic sanctions against Russia

The European Union agreed on Tuesday (July 29) to impose broad economic sanctions against Russia, hoping to force Moscow to reverse course in Ukraine, EU sources said. 

BRUSSELS: The European Union agreed on Tuesday (July 29) to impose broad economic sanctions against Russia, hoping to force Moscow to reverse course in Ukraine, EU sources said.

The new measures impose restrictions on the finance, defence and energy sectors so as to increase the cost to Russia of its continued intervention and support of pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine.

"A political accord has been reached on the package of economic sanctions," an EU official said, after the 28-member state ambassadors met for most of the day.

Up to now, the European Union has imposed asset freezes and visa bans targeted at people and entities - firms, utilities or local authorities - it believes to have stoked the Ukraine crisis or profited from it.

Many EU countries, among them Germany and Italy, have major economic ties with Russia, which also supplies the bloc with a third of its gas needs, making it difficult for Brussels to follow Washington's lead and adopt more punishing sanctions on Moscow.

However, the alleged shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by pro-Moscow rebels using a Russian-made missile changed sentiment radically and pushed the idea of broader and tougher economic sanctions to the top of the EU agenda.

US PREPARING NEW SANCTIONS

The United States is drawing up fresh sanctions against Russia for its role in fuelling the crisis in Ukraine, top US diplomat John Kerry warned on Tuesday. "We are in the process of preparing additional sanctions, with Europe," Kerry told reporters in Washington, shortly after the EU finally adopted broad economic measures against Moscow.

But Kerry added that Russian President Vladimir Putin "still has a choice going forward with respect to his ability to be able to have an impact with the separatists."

Speaking after meeting with new Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin at the US State Department, Kerry revealed he had again raised US concerns over Russia's role in stirring unrest in eastern Ukraine during a telephone call on Tuesday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The two men had "agreed that there is a way to try to put some very specific proposals on the table to try to move forward," Kerry maintained. "But the Russians and their so-called volunteers are continuing to ship arms and funds and personnel across the border. We see this. There is clear evidence of it."

Over the weekend, US officials released what they say are images of Russian artillery firing from inside their country on Ukrainian military positions. "President Putin can make a huge difference here if he chooses to, and we and our European partners will take additional measures and impose wider sanctions on key sections of the Russian economy if that is what we must do," Kerry said.

"We hope that it will not be necessary. And if Russia continues to go down this path, however, Russia will leave the international community with no choice."

The US secretary of state again slammed the difficulties being faced by international investigators trying to gain access to the site where the Malaysian airliner was downed 10 days ago, killing all 298 people on board.

"Without this access, they have no way to collect debris, no way to collect other evidence from the scene in order to be able to provide the kind of examination that is necessary," Kerry said. "They still can't even ensure that all of the victims' remains have been removed, and that is an unsupportable burden for any family to have to bear, and it is an unacceptable standard for behaviour.

"The site has to be cordoned off, the evidence has to be preserved, and Russia needs to use its considerable influence among the separatists in order to be able to help ensure this basic approach of common decency."


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