Brussels to discuss tougher sanctions on Russia

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Brussels to discuss tougher sanctions on Russia

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EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss a tougher stance on Russia in the wake of the MH17 disaster.

The 28-nation bloc has been under pressure to take a harder line on Moscow, but is yet to agree on a united response to broader sanctions. Some member states are concerned about potential reprisals from Russia, which supplies around 30 percent of EU nations’ gas demand.

However, the British government has said it believes the costs of not acting against Russia would be greater than any retaliation.

British Finance Minister George Osborne said Britain was prepared to take an economic hit from imposing further sanctions.

“Think of the economic hit… of allowing international borders to be ignored, of allowing airlines to be shot down – that’s a much greater economic hit for Britain and we’re not prepared to allow that to happen,” he told BBC radio.

On Sunday Britain, Germany and France agreed on the need to impose harder-hitting sanctions following the downing of flight MH17 in which 298 passengers and crew perished.

Catherine Ashton, EU Foreign Policy Chief, appealed to Russia to help ensure the smooth running of the salvage operation.

“We call on Russia to do its part in ensuring the separatists really do engage with the monitors and engage with those who are trying to investigate the scene at the present time,” she said.

The situation in Ukraine is expected to be at the top of the agenda in Brussels, with recent events in Iraq and the latest developments in the Middle East peace process also set to be debated.