Tuesday, July 29, 2014
BRUSSELS (AP) — Shocked into action by the downing of the Malaysian airliner and the resulting deaths of more than 200 Europeans, the European Union approved dramatically tougher economic sanctions Tuesday against Russia, to be followed swiftly by similar punitive measures from the U.S.
The new sanctions adopted by the Europeans over the uprising in Ukraine include an arms embargo on Moscow and a ban on the unapproved sale to the Russians of technology that has dual military and civilian uses or is sensitive, such as advanced equipment used in deep-sea and Arctic oil drilling, EU officials said.
To restrict Russia's access to Europe's capital markets, EU citizens and banks will be barred from purchasing certain bonds or stocks issued by state-owned Russian banks, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make public statements.
European Union President Herman Van Rompuy and the head of the EU's executive, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, said the 28-nation bloc meant to send a "strong warning" to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the "illegal annexation" of Crimea and Russia's destabilization of Ukraine cannot be tolerated.
"Furthermore, when the violence created spirals out of control and leads to the killing of almost 300 innocent civilians in their flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia, the situation requires urgent and determined response," the two top EU officials said in a statement.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was blown out of the sky by a missile over eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 people aboard, most of them Europeans. The Obama administration has blamed separatists armed and supported by Russia.
The new EU sanctions bring Europe in sync with the U.S., which has been pressing the bloc to take a harder line against Moscow.
Europe, which has a much larger trade relationship with Russia than the U.S. does, had hesitated to take actions as strong as Washington's for fear among some leaders that sanctions could boomerang against their own economies.
Germany, for example, imports one-third of its gas from Russia, while France has a contract to deliver two warships.
But on Monday, in a rare videoconference call with President Barack Obama, the leaders of Britain, Germany, Italy and France expressed their willingness to slap new sanctions on Russia in coordination with the U.S.
Up to now, the EU had only targeted specific individuals, businesses or rebel organizations accused of undermining Ukraine.
"Unlike the Americans, we always have to get 28 countries together," German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview with ARD television. "And the interests are very different. All the same, I think that we — at the latest with the shooting-down of this plane — have a situation in which we cannot simply carry on in the same way."
The U.S. hailed the Europeans' harder line.
"We welcome these early indications that European countries are going to take additional steps today," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. He said further U.S. penalties would be announced as early as Tuesday.
The West has accused Russia of supplying weapons and fighters to Ukraine's pro-Moscow separatists in the uprising that has killed more than 1,000 people since mid-April.
In the past few days, the U.S. has also accused Russia of massing 15,000 troops at the border, unleashing artillery attacks on Ukraine from its territory, and shipping more heavy weaponry to the rebels.
"It is now up to the Russian leadership to decide whether it wants to choose the path of de-escalation and cooperation," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday.
The new EU actions will be published Thursday, when they will take immediate effect.
The ambassadors also added eight names to the list of people subject to asset freezes and travel bans, including four people close to Putin, an EU official said. In addition, the ambassadors put three more entities on the list of companies and organizations subject to sanctions.
Paul Ivan, a policy analyst with the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based think tank, said that because of Russia's "lack of cooperation" in helping bring about a peaceful solution in Ukraine, the EU had been moving toward hardening its stance in the days before the jetliner was shot down.
But "the killing of so many of its citizens and especially the undignified way of treating the bodies in the days after, just added to (Europe's) frustration," Ivan said.
"I think EU leaders realized that this is not just a small localized conflict that they can half-ignore, and the feeling of moral outrage has forced even the more reluctant ones to follow."