Monday, September 8, 2014

European Union: Some EU States Want to Delay Approving Sanctions If Ukraine Ceasefire Holds

According to Reuters, some European Union (EU) governments delayed signing off on a new package of sanctions against Russia over its involvement in Ukraine on Monday (September 8) because some governments want to discuss how to suspend the sanctions if a Ukraine ceasefire holds, diplomats said.
EU envoys were meeting on Monday evening in Brussels to decide whether the sanctions-- agreed in principle on Friday--should be first implemented and then suspended if the ceasefire holds or whether they should not be implemented at all at this stage, they said.
While the discussions appear largely procedural, many members are opposed to further punishment of Moscow for sending troops into Ukraine see it as an opportunity to block the package and avoid retaliatory measures from Russia, diplomats said.
"On Friday, ambassadors agreed what should be in the sanctions package. Today they returned to a discussion of how to implement them to reflect the positive developments on the ground," one EU diplomat said.
COMMENT: Some EU governments wanted to discuss whether the new sanctions should be frozen before being implemented because of the ceasefire in Ukraine, or alternatively if the new sanctions are implemented, how could they be suspended and when.
A ceasefire took effect in Ukraine on Friday evening (September 5), part of a peace plan intended to end a five-month conflict the United Nations' human rights envoy said had killed 2,600+.
The truce was largely holding on Monday, though each side accused the other of sporadic shelling, including in Mariupol, a city of about half a million people.
The proposed new EU sanctions put Russia's top oil producers and pipeline operators Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft on a list of Russian state-owned firms that will not be allowed to raise capital or borrow on European markets, an EU diplomat said earlier.
EU sanctions, however, do not include the gas sector and in particular state-owned Gazprom, the world's biggest gas producer and the biggest gas supplier to Europe.
In general, the EU sanctions on Russian companies raising money will apply to firms that have turnover of more than 1 trillion rubles ($26.95 billion), half of which is generated from the sale or transport of oil, the diplomat said.
A further 24 people will be added to a list of those barred from entry to the  EU and whose assets in the EU are frozen. 
The list is expected to include new separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine, the government of Ukraine's Crimea region annexed by Moscow, and Russian decision-makers and oligarchs.
Russia signaled on Monday it might ban Western airlines from flying over its territory as part of an "asymmetrical" response to new European Union sanctions over the Ukraine crisis. 
Blaming the West for damaging the Russian economy by triggering "stupid" sanctions, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would press on with measures to reduce reliance on imports, starting with increasing output of domestic aircraft.