SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- The U.S. and European Union are pressing ahead with additional sanctions against Russia, as leaders voiced skepticism over a cease-fire struck in Ukraine and urged further punitive measures to be implemented.
European Union diplomats meeting in Brussels today were putting the finishing touches to the bloc’s broadest sanctions yet as Ukraine agreed to a cease-fire with pro-Russian separatists starting at 6 p.m. local time. President Barack Obama said the U.S. has readied penalties to be enacted in coordination with EU governments.
The U.S. and Europe are “finalizing measures to deepen and broaden our sanctions across Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors,” Obama said today at a press conference at the close of a NATO summit in Newport, Wales. Asked about the cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine, Obama said he was “hopeful, but based on past experience, also skeptical” that it will hold.
While the cease-fire raises the prospect of a lasting truce that would be the biggest breakthrough yet to end a conflict that has killed more than 2,600 people, its permanence “has to be tested,” said Obama. Leaders from Germany, France and the U.K. also called for steps to be brought in regardless.
“A ceasefire, yes, good news, a peace plan would be better news, but the sanctions go ahead as announced,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters at a separate briefing in Newport. While the measures could be removed “if proper milestones are reached,” for now “the sanctions that we agreed in Brussels last Saturday will go ahead,” he said.
EU leaders called on Aug. 30 for further penalties against Russia to be drafted within a week after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his country was being invaded by troops and tanks. Options include barring some Russian state-owned defense and energy companies from raising capital in the EU, according to European officials.
The U.S. has decided on the measures to be implemented and is now just working out wording and some specifics, according to three U.S. government officials who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the sanctions. The new steps against Russia were to be announced as early as today, though the U.S. will probably wait to coordinate with the EU’s announcement, they said.
Any extra EU penalties decided today will need the formal endorsement of national governments, which could delay taking a final decision to enact them. If the governments opt to forge ahead, measures could be in place as soon as tomorrow.
EU decisions on sanctions require unanimous approval by the bloc’s governments, giving skeptics of further penalties leverage to delay any enactment of them.
“We have to look to see if this cease-fire is valid, we’ll have to see whether Russian troops are withdrawing from where they are, whether there are buffer zones, and other things,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Wales. More sanctions may “very well be put in place, but with the stipulation that they could be suspended if we see that this process really is taking place,” she said.
In an initial set of economic sanctions imposed in late July, the EU barred five state-owned Russian banks from selling shares or bonds in Europe; restricted the export of equipment to modernize the oil industry; prohibited new contracts to sell arms to Russia; and banned the export of machinery, electronics and other civilian products with military uses — so-called dual-use goods — to military users.
Proposals on the table also include shortening to 30 days from 90 days the maturity of debt whose sale in the bloc by the targeted Russian businesses is banned, tightening the restrictions on dual-use goods and extending the curbs on technologies for the oil industry.
The EU is in any case due to expand a blacklist of people and companies subject to asset freezes in Europe. That’s because EU leaders six days ago also called for proposals to blacklist people and institutions “dealing with” separatist groups in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
“Sanctions have helped find a solution in Ukraine,” French President Francois Hollande said after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit. “Now we need proof that it’s a lasting cease-fire.”