Additional military aggression against Ukraine would have “serious consequences and a huge cost” for Russia. European leaders sent this warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In recent weeks, up to 175,000 Russian soldiers have gathered on the border with Ukraine. It is unclear what Putin’s motives were for making such statements, but Western countries do not rule out a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
European heads of state and government discussed the issue at their summit in Brussels on Thursday and decided to issue a warning to Putin. “Any further military aggression against Ukraine will face serious consequences and high costs, including through restrictive measures coordinated with partners,” the statement said. Other Western powers have already sent a similar message to Moscow. It is clear that they will work together in case of further escalation.
According to the diplomats, several options are on the table. For example, sanctions can be imposed on Russian state-owned companies and against oligarchs close to Putin. A ban on the operation of the new Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which runs to Germany, will also be considered. The exclusion of Russia from the international payment system SWIFT is a nuclear option.
No preventive sanctions
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with European leaders at the Eastern Partnership summit on Wednesday. He demanded that they take preventive sanctions against Russia to deter Putin, but they do not respond. Nevertheless, the European Union expresses its full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
It also encourages all diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the conflict between the two countries. Preference is given to talks between Russia and Ukraine, which also includes France and Germany, in the so-called Normandy format. Leaders demand implementation of the Minsk Accords – which guarantee peace in eastern Ukraine. Since 2014, the year Russia annexed Crimea, Russia has supported separatists in that region.
The situation in Belarus
The situation on Belarus’ borders with EU member states such as Poland, Lithuania and Latvia was also discussed at the summit. The Minsk mixed offensive, which pushed migrants and refugees across the border to put pressure on Europe, was once again strongly condemned – and so was the resulting humanitarian crisis. Leaders say they will continue to protect Europe’s external borders and are ready to impose additional sanctions on Belarus if necessary.
They reiterate that the regime of dictator Alexander Lukashenko must release all political prisoners in the country and stop the repressive approach of the population and independent media.
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