European Union foreign ministers have agreed to expand a list of people subject to sanctions for their roles in the Ukraine crisis. They stopped short, however, of imposing new measures.
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton (pictured above right), told reporters in Luxembourg on Monday that already existing sanctions on individuals seen as playing key roles in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine would now be imposed on several more people.
"In light of events, we decided to expand the list of those subject to asset freezes and visa bans," Ashton said at the end of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
Ashton described the current situation in the east of Ukraine as "extremely worrying" and said the ministers jointly "condemn unreservedly the actions by armed individuals in the cities of eastern Ukraine."
However, the foreign ministers stopped short of agreeing to impose tougher, new measures, apparently in part so as not to endanger four-way talks on Ukraine planned for later in the week.
"We must not focus only on sanctions," said Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn (above left) said, adding that everything must be done to ensure that Thursday's planned meeting involving senior officials from Ukraine, Russia, the EU and the United States had the best-possible chance of success.
Threat of tougher measures
At the same time though, the foreign ministers indicated that new sanctions could be ahead for Russia, if there is no de-escalation of the situation in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia gunmen have stormed and occupied government buildings in a number of towns.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said it "appears obvious" that the Kremlin was at least in part responsible for the seizure of the government facilities in Ukraine's east, and that it was time for the EU to act. He also said that if necessary, a summit of EU heads of state and government could be called as soon as next week to deal with the Ukraine crisis.
"Further sanctions have to be the response to Russia's behavior," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters as he arrived for the talks. "There have to be consequences."
Hague also rejected the Kremlin's denial of any involvement in the latest crisis, saying they didn't have a "a shred of credibility."
In a further measure, the foreign ministers on Monday signed off on a one-billion-euro ($1.38-billion) medium-term loan for Kyiv, as well as a cut in customs duties on Ukrainian goods.
pfd/jr (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)