EU to hit Russia with new sanctions over ‘barbaric attack’ on Ukraine

EU to hit Russia with new sanctions over ‘barbaric attack’ on Ukraine

European Union leaders will impose new sanctions on Russia, freezing its assets, halting its banks’ access to European financial markets and targeting “Kremlin interests” over its invasion of Ukraine, senior officials said on Thursday.

An emergency summit starting at 1900 GMT will also discuss offering EU candidate status to Ukraine, Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda said, a step Kyiv has long called for, though it may not win approval from all EU leaders.

Russian forces rained missiles on Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, and landed troops on its Black and Azov Sea coasts on Thursday, in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

The EU said it had summoned Russia’s ambassador to Brussels to condemn “the unprovoked, unjustified invasion,” warning him that a new “hard-hitting” package of sanctions would be decided at the summit in coordination with its transatlantic partners.

“We condemn this barbaric attack and the cynical arguments to justify it,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said. “It is President Putin who is bringing war back to Europe.”

“With this package, we will target strategic sectors of the Russian economy by blocking their access to technologies and markets that are key to Russia,” she added. “We will weaken Russia’s economic base and its capacity to modernize.”

Russian assets in the EU would also be frozen and Russian banks’ access to Europe’s financial markets would be stopped.

However, cutting Russia off the SWIFT global interbank payments system – one of the toughest non-military sanctions the West could impose – is unlikely to be agreed at this stage, several EU sources said.

The EU approved a first round of sanctions on Wednesday, including blacklisting Russian politicians and curbing trade between the EU and two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine whose independence Moscow has recognized.

The new measures, to be discussed at the evening summit of national EU leaders, will be “the harshest package of sanctions we have ever implemented”, said the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

“This is among the darkest hours for Europe since the end of World War Two… Russia’s leadership will face unprecedented isolation.”

The EU will also prepare a new aid package for Ukraine, he added.

“We will also be active in supporting evacuation operations, including our own staff in zones affected by this Russian attack,” Borrell said. [Reuters]

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