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Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: EU’s new sanctions on Russia fall short of UK demands

US calls the Brussels agreement, which does not target energy sector, ‘feeble’

Oliver Wright
Wednesday 23 July 2014 09:17 BST
Baroness Ashton said the EU was ‘determined’ to try to improve the situation in Ukraine
Baroness Ashton said the EU was ‘determined’ to try to improve the situation in Ukraine (Getty Images)

European foreign ministers agreed limited new targets for sanctions against Russian companies and individuals linked to the conflict in Ukraine today – but fell well short of demands by Britain and America to take decisive action against President Putin’s regime.

A senior American official described the agreement reached in Brussels as “feeble” after the EU announced it would produce a new wider list of Ukraine sanctions targets on Thursday.

EU foreign ministers did not agree to widen sanctions to include those entities supporting the Russian regime or agree to new restrictions on key sectors of the Russian economy such as oil and gas.

David Cameron admitted he was not satisfied with the weak EU sanctions package. “I think we are making progress but of course we need to do more”.

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton, said officials would look at “capital markets, defence, and the energy sector” as possible targets for future sanctions.

Asked if Europe had been too soft on Russia, Lady Ashton said the EU had been “extremely determined” to try to improve the situation in Ukraine even before the tragedy of MH17 but added President Vladimir Putin should do more.

“We have called upon Russia to do what it can, and it can and should do more to ensure that those who see themselves as looking towards Russia for guidance get the strong message that this is unacceptable,” she said.

The meeting was overshadowed by a diplomatic spat between Britain and France over Mr Cameron’s attempt on Monday to shame President Hollande into cancelling the delivery of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Moscow. The Prime Minister told the House of Commons that such a deal would be “unthinkable” in Britain.

Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, head of the ruling Socialist Party, accused the British Government of being “hypocrites”. “When you see how many [Russian] oligarchs have sought refuge in London, David Cameron should start by cleaning up his own backyard,” he said.

The wrangling over the warships highlights the difficulties the EU has had in agreeing a joint line on dealing with Russia, a major gas supplier to Germany and Italy, as well as to central Europe.

Putting a brave face on the failure to agree wider sanctions Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said EU ministers had agreed to “concrete proposals” as well as looking at broader sanctions such as arms embargoes and access to capital and hi-tech goods. “What I have heard today is a clear political commitment by the foreign ministers in response to this outrage to act,” he said.

“I would expect to see that process now moving forward.

“The cronies of Mr Putin and his clique in the Kremlin are the people who have to bear the pressure because it is only them feeling the pressure that will in turn put pressure on the Russian government.”

Asked about the French sale of helicopter carriers to Russia he replied: “This is a question for the French government.”

Baroness Ashton Ashton talks with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (Getty) (Getty Images)

The Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said the EU’s “forceful decision” imposes visa bans and asset freezes on more officials.

He said the ministers also asked the 28-nation bloc’s executive arm to prepare for more forceful economic sanctions – including targeting the arms, energy and financial sectors – if Russia fails to back down from destabilising Ukraine. Mr Timmermans did not specify how many officials were targeted under the latest sanctions, nor did he reveal their names.

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