EU foreign ministers agree to prepare new Russia sanctions amid recent escalation

A new round of sanctions against Russia is set to be prepared after an emergency late-night meeting between EU foreign ministers on Wednesday (21 September) in New York, following Moscow’s latest escalation in the war against Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters in New York, EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement, which included steps to annex swathes of Ukrainian territory, a threat to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, and the first wartime mobilisation since World War Two, showed ‘panic and desperation’.

“It’s clear that Putin is trying to destroy Ukraine,” Borrell told reporters after ministers gathered on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to informally discuss how to respond to the latest developments.

In a joint declaration, EU foreign ministers “condemned in the strongest possible terms” the latest escalation by Russia and stated they “will never recognise these areas as anything but a part of Ukraine” and instead “continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to restore its territorial integrity as long as necessary”.

After being briefed in person by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, they agreed to task their teams with preparing the bloc’s next sanctions package.

The new round of punitive measures would target “more relevant sectors of the Russian economy and continue targeting people responsible for the war of aggression in Ukraine,” Borrell said, speaking of new sectorial and individual measures.

However, he declined to give further details on the type of sanctions or additional EU military support to be agreed upon, likely when ministers will hold their next formal meeting in mid-October.

Asked by EURACTIV whether he was worried about attempts by certain EU member states to water down sanctions despite the current escalation, Borrell said he believed there would be “unanimous” support within the bloc for new measures.

According to an EU source, Hungary did not object during Wednesday’s talks.

In response to Moscow’s recognition of the sham referendums, a new raft of EU punitive measures could likely entail more listings of individuals involved in the organisation and execution of the referendums; an EU official told EURACTIV just after their announcement on Tuesday (20 September).

The Russian-backed, self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and the neighbouring Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said the planned referendums would be held from 23-27 September. The southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south will reportedly also have referendums at the same time.,

Measures could include steps similar to those implemented before Russia’s February invasion, namely sanctioning local officials and banning trade, tourism and financing to annexed regions.

According to EU diplomats, measures under consideration include the cap on the price of Russian oil, as proposed by the G7, but it is unclear whether all member states will be on board.

The US has been putting pressure on the EU to p.rogress on an oil price cap before the EU’s ban on Russian oil imports comes into force in December.

Further other options under consideration include sectorial sanctions such as dual-use technologies and a new crackdown on luxury goods trade, especially diamonds, with Russia.

Consultations on the next package could start within days, EU diplomats said.


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