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EU foreign ministers consider fresh sanctions on Russia

The EU could be set to impose tougher sanctions on Moscow after NATO accused Russia of sending hundreds of troops into Ukraine. Germany's foreign minster warned the situation in Ukraine could be slipping out of control.

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Milan on Friday appeared to be moving towards pushing for tougher sanctions on Moscow, a day after the

Western military alliance NATO said it had evidence that Russia had slipped well-over 1,000 soldiers and heavy weaponry into eastern Ukraine.

Also some EU member states continue to express reservations about sanctions, Germany's position in particular appeared to have hardened following

the NATO accusation

- which Russia has rejected.

"All our hopes of de-escalation have been disappointed and the situation is showing signs that it is now out of control," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

Elmar Brok, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who chairs the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, voiced a similar sentiment.

"There was not much happiness in there. They (the ministers) see all the negotiations, meetings and contact groups have no success because (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is using them as an alibi to win more time," he said.

Brok also said he believed that in light of the events of the past couple of days in eastern Ukraine, EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Saturday, would likely call on the European Commission to draw up proposals for further sanctions against Russia.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the EU needed to send Russia a clear message that its activities in eastern Ukraine were unacceptable.

"This is the second invasion of Ukraine in a year. We have to call a spade a spade and stop playing around," he said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was also due in Brussels on Saturday, where he is scheduled to meet with the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barosso and European Council President Herman van Rompuy ahead of the EU summit.

IMF financial aid released

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has approved the release of around $1.4 billion (1.06 billion euros) in financial aid for Ukraine, after it completed the first review of Ukraine's performance under an economic reforms program launched back in April. While the IMF found that Kyiv had "generally" implemented the measures demanded, it also warned that the program "continues to hinge crucially on the assumption that the conflict will subside in the coming months."

pfd/crh (AFP, AP, dpa)

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