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EU foreign ministers slam Russian attacks on civilians

March 4, 2022

An extraordinary meeting has been held in Brussels amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The bloc's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has hinted that sanctions on Russia's oil and gas sector are possible.

Burning buildings in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv
The European Union is looking for ways to bring an end to Russia's invasion of UkraineImage: Dmytro Kumaka/AP/dpa/picture alliance

European Union foreign ministers have criticized Russian attacks on civilians in Ukraine. The diplomats gathered in Brussels on Friday to discuss Russia's ongoing invasion, just hours after NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned  the conflict was likely to worsen in coming days.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell slammed Russian attacks on civilians in Ukraine, saying it was "bombing and shelling everything, hospitals, houses, schools." 

"This scale of the humanitarian catastrophe there in Ukraine that is unfolding really worries us. Europe is seeing destruction and displacement on a scale not seen since the darkest days of the last century," EU President Ursula von der Leyen said. 

"What this really about is the lives of men, women, children, hundreds, thousands of individuals, human tragedies inflicted by Vladimir Putin and his war of choice on the Ukraine and its people," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added.

"Desperately needed humanitarian aid must be able to reach all parts of Ukraine, and civilians must be able to escape cities under siege," she added.

Ukrainians fleeing to Europe will be granted temporary residence permits as well as access to jobs, education and healtcare for at least a year under the EU's temporary protection directive that was approved on Thursday.

Berliners welcome refugees from Ukraine

EU 'ready' to adopt more Russia sanctions 

Europe was ready to impose more sanctions on Russia if it does not stop the war in Ukraine, von der Leyen warned.

"To be very clear, we are ready to take further severe measures if Putin does not stop and reverse the war he has unleashed," she said.

At an earlier NATO meeting, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said more sanctions targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin over his military actions in Ukraine were being prepared. 

"With his war against Ukraine [Putin] is also driving his own country into ruin,'' said Baerbock.

At the same meeting, Borrell, when questioned about possible sanctions on the Russian oil and gas sector, said that "everything remains on the table."

So far, such sanctions have been rejected amid fears that the fuel shortages they might cause could be too damaging for European economies.

lo,tj /rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)