The European Union appears set to step up sanctions on Russia over the situation in eastern Ukraine. Not only the country's president has warned that Ukraine is "close to the point of no return."
European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Saturday agreed that further steps need to be taken to convince Moscow to reconsider its actions related to eastern Ukraine.
The Reuters news agency cited a draft statement from the EU summit, which said the 28 leaders were set to instruct the European Commission and the bloc's diplomatic service "to urgently undertake preparatory work" on further sanctions to be implemented against Moscow if necessary.
It wasn't clear on Saturday, whether the leaders had reached the required unanimity to impose tougher sanctions in the near future, with some fearing the effect such measures could have on their own economies.
However, there appeared to be little doubt that the leaders had reached a consensus on the need for some sort of further measures, after Ukrainian Petro Poroshenko briefed them on the latest developments and asked for a strong response from the EU to the "military aggression and terror" facing his country.
"Thousands of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine," Poroshenko told reporters. "There is a very high risk not only for peace and stability for Ukraine, but for the whole ... of Europe," he added, speaking in English.
'Point of no return'
Poroshenko also said that he believed the situation in eastern Ukraine was nearing a "point of no return" and that failure to halt the violence quickly could lead to a "full-scale war."
Outgoing European Comission President Jose Manuel Barroso also warned of a "point of no return," but he stressed that Brussels wanted a political resolution to the crisis.
"We are ready to take very strong and clear measures but we are keeping our doors open to a political solution, Barroso said.
Poroshenko said that fresh talks aimed at bringing an end to the fighting, including representatives of Kyiv, Moscow and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were to be held in the Belarusian capital, Minsk on Monday.
pfd/crh (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)