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Brussels agrees on more military aid for Ukraine, but no new sanctions

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By Christopher Pilcher
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EU foreign affairs ministers meet in Brussels on Monday 21 March 2021.
EU foreign affairs ministers meet in Brussels on Monday 21 March 2021.   -   Copyright  Olivier Matthys/Associated Press

EU Foreign ministers have reached a political agreement to give Ukraine another €500 million in arms and military equipment following a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

The bloc's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, reaffirmed the bloc's unity against Russia, committing to continue all kinds of support to the embattled country, including financial, humanitarian and military support.

"We consider that what's happening in Ukraine is a war crime, a massive war crime committed by the Russian armed forces against Ukrainian people. And this cannot go unanswered," Borrell said. "And that's why we welcome the commission of enquiry set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council. We welcome the investigation by the International Criminal Court prosecutor and we recall the order by the International Court of Justice for Russia to stop the invasion of Ukraine."

At the same time the possibility of further sanctions was also discussed by ministers, including a controversial oil embargo against Russia.

Poland and the Baltic states are still pushing for tougher action against Russia, including a total trade ban by both land and sea.

However, agreement is far off, with several EU countries, including Germany, holding back from going further, particularly when it comes to energy.

"The question on an oil embargo is not a question of whether we want or don't want it," Annalena Baerbock, Germany's foreign minister, told reporters on Monday. "It's a question of how much we depend on oil and it's different between different European member states and that's why it's important that we talk together about resilience and how we can reduce our dependency on those countries that do import oil.

"And, for example, Germany is importing a lot but also other European countries that cannot stop importing oil from one day to the other. If we could, we would do it automatically but now we are preparing everything that we can go these steps in the upcoming future, very soon."

Member states also formally approved the EU's plan to boost its security and defence by 2030 known as the Strategic Compass.

"The threats are rising and the cost of inaction is clear. The Strategic Compass is a guide for action," Borrell said. "It sets out an ambitious way forward for our security and defence policy for the next decade. It will help us face our security responsibilities, in front of our citizens and the rest of the world. If not now, then when?"

EU Leaders will come back to these issues later this week during their summit Thursday and Friday, which US President Joe Biden will attend.