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Aftermaths of Crimea referendum, sanctions against Russia to be discussed by EU ministers

March 17, 2014, 4:14 UTC+3 BRUSSELS
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BRUSSELS, March 17. /ITAR-TASS/. Aftermaths of Sunday’s referendum on the future of Crimea, the legitimacy of which the EU and the U.S. refuse to recognize, and the possible sanctions against Russia will become the dominant issue at a conference of foreign ministers of the EU’s 28 member-states.

The ministers are gathering in Brussels for an emergency meeting. 

The EU followed the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, and NATO in declaring its refusal to honor the results of the referendum, insisting on its illegitimacy.

“The solution to the crisis in Ukraine must be based on the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, in the framework of the Ukrainian Constitution as well as the strict adherence to international standards,” EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a joint statement Sunday.

“Only working together through diplomatic processes, including direct discussions between the Governments of Ukraine and Russia, can we find a solution to the crisis,” they said adding that the EU “[…] has a special responsibility for peace, stability and prosperity on the European continent and will continue pursuing these objectives using all available channels.”

EU leaders issued a warning to Russia at an emergency summit March 6 that it would face “serious consequences” unless it took immediate steps towards a scaling down of tensions. Among the steps of this kind, the EU demanded the Moscow begin talks with the authorities in Kiev and return the Black Sea Fleet military to the sites of permanent deployment.

Given the current situation, the EU plans to consider - for the first time in recent history - the introduction of sting sanctions against top officials of Russian law enforcement agencies, separate politicians and, possibly, business people. They are placed on a list containing about 30 people, which has not been endorsed yet.

The individuals concerned will be denied travel visas to European countries and the authorities of the member-states will freeze their bank deposits, should any be found at European banks.

It is not ruled out that the foreign ministers will be unable to endorse sanctions Monday and will put the decision off until an EU summit, due to be held in Brussels on March 20-21. The summit is supposed to focus Europe’s revitalization after the crisis of the euro but considering the EU leadership’s reaction to the events in Crimea, the situation around Ukraine and a search for sources of financial assistance to the Ukrainian government will also take a prominent place on the agenda.

As for the economic or trade sanctions, numerous diplomatic sources indicate the EU countries are not ready to take the decision yet and that is why they have reserved it as a measure of last resort if Russia does confirm its willingness to accept Crimea as a new constituent territory.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don last week that Moscow was shaping its economic policy in such a way as to minimize its contingence on possible political risks.

Asked whether the Russian government had analysed the likely impact of Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, Dvorkovich said: “We are constantly performing this analysis considering that fluctuations in the world economy have a much greater influence on Russia than any sanctions might have.”

He noted also that sanctions “cut both ways and have a negative impact on both sides”.

“Therefore, we consider any proposals for sanctions as a huge risk for those who initiate them,” Dvorkovich said, adding that the Russian government would anyway “pursue its economic policy in such a way as to minimize the dependence on political risks”.

“I suppose that the policy of recent years lets us hope for good results,” he said. “We are working with all partners - both with Europe and the American continent as well as with the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

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