Europe has decided not to hit Russia harder with financial and trade sanctions in response to Moscow’s moves on Ukraine. But the European Union has agreed to freeze the travel options and assets of more key Ukrainians on a sanction list with Russian officials.
Ahead of further high-level international talks, Analyst Jonathan Eyal described EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s intentions with her US, Russian and Ukrainian counterparts.
The Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute said: “Well, clearly there’s a lot of hope being placed on discussions — diplomatic negotiations that are going to take place in Geneva on Thursday. But it’s not at all obvious, first of all, that the negotiations will happen, that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will come for these negotiations. And even if he does, the suspicion among Western governments is that he’s going to put forward a proposal for federalisation of Ukraine, which probably will be very similar to what we’ve seen now. Let’s make no mistake about it: the fight is about the very survival of Ukraine as a state.”
The EU bloc has 28 member countries; for common foreign policy decisions to hold, everyone needs to vote ‘yes’, but since several members rely heavily on Russia for their energy supplies, that is hard to accomplish.
Meetings on Thursday are expected to be a trying time for the European Union, seeking a united position on territorial integrity in Europe. Hesitation among the Europeans, over how to move forward, appears a strong possibility.
To get a sense of Moscow’s diplomatic position, we spoke with Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, in our Brussels studio.
Andrei Beketov, euronews: “EU Foreign ministers apparently agreed to toughen the measures against Russia for its actions in relations to Ukraine. What’s your attitude to such a perspective?”
Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov: “It would be more useful for the European Union – instead of working out the sanctions against Russia – to look for the ways of assisting Ukraine to get out of the political crisis. Brussels and Washington have an excellent chance to show that they really care about a peaceful political settlement in Ukraine by urging the authorities in Kyiv to refrain from the use of (military) power in the east of the country.”
euronews: “There are suggestions of a possible EU summit next week in case of a Russian military invasion in eastern Ukraine. Are you aware of any preparation for such an invasion?”
Chizhov: “I can assure you that no invasion is being talked about (in Russia).”
euronews: “One month ago you told us that there were no (additional) Russian military personnel in Crimea. Are you going to say the same about the current situation. None of them are there either?”
Chizhov: “Nobody presented any evidence of this, not a single fact!”
euronews: “Many of Russia’s neighbours in Europe feel that they could be victims of intervention.”
Chizhov: “They become victims of their own hysteria, which they whip up themselves helped by assistants from other countries and mass media. It is starting to look like a mass psychosis.”
euronews: “In any case, increases in military budgets are being considered.”
Chizhov: “Spare money could find a more useful application. Any rise of a military threat in Europe… I personally don’t see any indications of that.”
euronews: “Do you think a meeting will take place in Geneva there on Thursday?”
Chizhov: “If Kyiv fulfils its threat to implement a power counter-terror operation, then the subject of the discussion may disappear.”
euronews: “One has an impression that because of Russia’s behaviour it has fewer and fewer friends in the EU. Don’t you think that this is a failure in Russian diplomacy?”
Chizhov: “No, I think it is fault of your colleagues in mass media who often cover the events from only one side. I think that the current difficult situation in relations between Russia and the European Union is a temporary one.”
Meanwhile, we heard further sharp condemnation of Moscow from Kyiv.
“Ukrainian authorities have intercepted phone calls between Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and their superiors in Moscow or in the territory of the Russian Federation,” according to Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU Kostiantyn Yelisieiev.
In an interview with euronews, Yelisieiev also said that equipment and ammunition seen in media coverage of unrest over the weekend belonged to Russia’s armed forces.
Moscow denied that it had any involvement in the violence in the east of Ukraine.
EU leaders are reported to be considering another summit on the crisis for next week, where sanctions against Russia might be expanded.