EU foreign ministers in Brussels asked officials to put forward names of an unspecified number of pro-Russian separatists to be added to the EU’s sanctions list by the end of the month.
“Sanctions… are an effective tool in a broader strategy,” the EU’s new foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, told a news conference, adding that she would visit Kiev as soon as a new government is formed. She said she was open to visiting Moscow “if the conditions are there”.
“Russia is part of the problem but is also for sure part of the solution,” Mogherini said. The former Italian foreign minister also asked ministers to discuss how the EU can re-launch a dialogue with Russia.
Around 120 Ukrainian and Russian officials are already under EU asset freezes and travel bans.
The EU foreign ministers called in a statement for “a halt to the continuous violations of the ceasefire, a withdrawal of all illegal and foreign forces, mercenaries and military equipment”.
Ministers signaled that any discussion of tighter economic sanctions, in addition to measures already taken targeting the finance, energy and defense sectors, would probably have to wait until EU leaders meet in Brussels in December.
Asked by EUobserver why, given the NATO confirmation, the conclusions refer to withdrawal of “foreign forces” instead of “Russian forces”, Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said: “We talked for over three hours about the wording of this text… in the end, we preferred to show that the 28 can speak with one voice, even if it’s not as spirited as we’d like.”
He added: “Especially since this is Ms Mogherini’s first [EU] council, we decided to accept the lowest common denominator, rather than having no conclusions at all.”