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BRUSSELS, March 06. /ITAR-TASS/. The European Union has gathered for an emergency summit in Brussels amidst differences over how to exert economic pressure on Russia. The majority of the heads of states and government of the 28 EU member states have spoken in favor of a political dialogue with Russia. However, they also think the European Union should discuss possible economic sanctions against Russia to demonstrate Europe’s concern and seriousness of intentions.
The European Union is calling on Moscow and Kiev to start immediate direct negotiations on the situation in Ukraine, agree on deployment of international observers and create a contact group to settle problems related to Crimea.
The EU countries are ready to adopt political sanctions against Russia as the first step such as freezing a dialogue on facilitation of the visa regime and negotiations on a new Russia-EU base agreement. Commenting on the EU intentions, Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s permanent representative to the European Union, noted that the above-mentioned punitive measures were unlikely to produce any impact on Russia because the negotiations on both matters had been frozen de facto for the past two years because of the European Union’s passive stance.
The EU leaders say that the community can consider ‘target economic sanctions’ if they see no signs of tensions being de-escalated and if a threat to Ukraine’s territorial integrity continues to exist. In fact, the EU leading countries are preserving differences over the core of these sanctions.
UK does not support sanctions against the Russian banking sector because that will deliver a heavy blow at the London City’s finance. London also fears a repeat of an embarrassing scenario that involved several Iranian banks that won lawsuits against the European Union in courts which passed decisions relieving them from European sanctions.
France is not ready to sever its military contacts with Russia as of yet while Germany, which is Russia’s major trading partner and Russian gas importer, says that the European Union has not exhausted its diplomatic means to settle the crisis. Italy has also refused to exert tough pressure on Russia.
Apart from that, the European Union has countries that are traditionally close to Russia, including Cyprus, Greece, Finland and Bulgaria which, among other things, are afraid of losing huge Russian investments.
The EU leaders will also discuss how to give additional support to Ukraine’s interim government. On March 5, the European Commission proposed €11 billion in financial aid to Ukraine. The figure, however, looks less impressive, while the money is supposed to be handed over until 2020. Besides, the European Union linked the provision of €10 billion out of the €11 billion aid package to Ukraine’s implementation of all IMF requirements.
The EU summit will also discuss the earliest deadlines for signing an association and free trade agreement with Ukraine.
The EU summit is taking place against the background of a growing media scandal over a telephone conversation of EU foreign policy and security chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet published in the Internet in which they openly discussed that snipers who fired at people during the unrest in Kiev had been hired by a former opposition leader. Ashton confirmed that she was aware that deputies of Ukrainian parliament were subject to harsh physical pressure and beatings.
All these facts are raising doubts over the legitimacy of the interim government in Kiev ever further and are stressing the need to implement the February 21 agreement (to end a political crisis in Ukraine) by Kiev which was signed by the leading EU states.