EU sanctions against Russia are to remain in place until December and expand in scope, according to a draft statement from EU foreign ministers obtained by reporters. This comes as violence in eastern Ukraine increases.
A day before European Union foreign ministers are set to meet in a special session, the Reuters news agency has released information from a draft statement from the ministers on Wednesday.
The statement says the European Union will extend sanctions in place against Russia until the end of the year. Previous documents indicated the sanctions would only remain in place until September of this year.
The ministers will also seek to expand the scope of the sanctions. This could include measures targeting the financial sector or limits to Russian access to advanced oil and gas technology.
"Measures for financial markets would be the easiest to introduce," Reuters quoted one official close to the discussions as saying. "Sovereign bonds have been mentioned in the past among the options. They would also be quite effective because they would undermine the economic growth potential of Russia."
Even if the measures are proposed tomorrow, it may not be until March until a decision on their implementation is made.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that new sanctions against Russia would aggravate the situation. "They will not make us forego what we think is right and just," he wrote in the Serbian journal Horizons, which was republished on the Russian ministry's website.
No peace in sight for eastern Ukraine
As the EU debates further sanctions against Russia, violence in eastern Ukraine continued at levels not seen since a ceasefire agreement was signed in Minsk in September 2014.
An attack on Tuesday in Luhansk caused several injuries and killed at least once person. Russia and Ukraine have pointed the finger at each other regarding who is responsible.
"The fighting that was once again provoked by Kyiv leads to the unavoidable escalation and undermines international efforts to end the bloodshed," Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
"They never had any other aims, they are bandits and terrorists," Ukrainian military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin said, referring to pro-Russian separatist rebels fighting against Ukraine in the eastern part of the country.
Both sides have issued demands that the other abide by the deal reached in the Minsk agreement. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin demanding a ceasefire as well as the release of Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot who claims she was abducted by separatists and taken to Moscow.
In an article published Wednesday, Lavrov said "it is essential for Ukraine to maintain its neutral status" to keep the peace plan alive.
He also added new sanctions from the EU would "not make us forego what we think is just and right."
US on board
On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama spoke on the phone about the worsening crisis in Ukraine. A statement released by the White House said the two leaders were concerned about the significant increase in violence in eastern Ukraine and Russia's materiel support for the separatists. Furthermore, they agreed on "the need to hold Russia accountable for its actions."
A robust package of financial support for Ukraine to help stabilize the economy was also part of the conversation between the two leaders.
mz/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)