Renewed sanctions against Russia
On Thursday, EU leaders decided to maintain current economic penalties against Russia in response to its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. The chiefs of government from the EU's 27 member states also urged Moscow to cease its military buildup near Ukraine's border and to return to discussions headed by France and Germany.
What did the leaders of the EU say? Leaders gathering in Brussels decided to extend for another six months a slew of economic sanctions aimed at putting pressure on Moscow. The sanctions imposed in 2014 targeted Russia's energy, financial, and defense industries.
During a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, the EU added the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary business, to its current sanctions list.
Leaders emphasized "the urgent need for Russia to de-escalate tensions generated by the military build-up along its border with Ukraine and provocative language" in a joint statement agreed during the summit.
In recent weeks, the leaders reiterated a message coordinated with the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Group of Seven industrialized nations. "Any further military action against Ukraine would have significant implications and high costs in retaliation, including restrictive measures coordinated with allies," it said. However, both German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron have stated that discussions with Moscow are still possible.
They recommended a return to the "Normandy framework," a four-way engagement between Paris, Berlin, Kiev, and Moscow to put the 2015 Minsk agreements — a blueprint for a political settlement — into action.
EU leaders agreed that "any fresh sanctions package should include the Russian officer corps and flag officers involved in the planning of a future invasion, as well as the inner circle and billionaires 'in the orbit of the Russian President and their families." According to the dossier, this may include freezing financial and physical assets in the EU, as well as travel bans and the possible withdrawal of Russia from the SWIFT international payment system.
The eastern member nations of the EU are particularly concerned about Russia's force buildup near Ukraine. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, whose nation borders Russia, warned that Moscow's activities were causing one of the worst security crises since the fall of the Soviet Union. The EU's request comes as Russia claims to have provided the US draft documents outlining security arrangements that it hopes to discuss with Washington and the rest of the NATO military alliance.