‘Visa bans, asset freezes are next’: Europe announces sanctions against Russia

000_par1602853.siEU leaders have threatened Russia with sanctions, which could include visa bans, asset freezes and various economic restrictions unless it engages in direct talks with the coup-appointed Ukrainian government.

As a first step, the EU has halted G8 summit preparations and visa-free talks with Russia.

The European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, on Thursday warned that if Moscow does not manage a de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine, it will “seriously affect the relations between the EU and Russia.”

“If there is no de-escalation, the EU will decide on additional measures, such as visa restrictions, asset freezes and cancellation of the Russia-EU summit,” Rompuy said at a press conference as quoted by Interfax.

British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened that asset freezes and unspecified travel bans could be imposed on Russia “relatively quickly,” unless progress is made on dialogue with Ukraine.

French President Francois Hollande said that further economic measures against Russia are also possible.

According to Cameron, those would be step-three in the sanctions and could carry “far-reaching consequences including in a broad range of economic areas.”

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said there was “no enthusiasm” in Europe for sanctions on Russia but the move was “inevitable.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also blasted the referendum on joining the Russian Federation announced by Crimea’s parliament on Thursday as “illegal and incompatible with Ukraine’s constitution.”

Following an emergency meeting of European leaders in Brussels, Merkel said they “condemn the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty with regard to Crimea,” and “consider its territorial integrity to be essential.”

The EU leaders urged the immediate withdrawal of what they believe are Russian troops blocking military installations in Crimea. All troops not part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces must lay down their weapons, Merkel said.

Ukraine should also receive the first portion of EU financial help swiftly, the German Chancellor believes. The EU plans to send 610 million euro to Kiev in the near future, which will later be followed by an aid package of 1 billion euro.

Quick signing of the political part of the EU association agreement with Ukraine is also a top priority task for the European leaders, according to Merkel. The trade-related part will be further discussed, taking into account close economic ties between Kiev and Moscow, she said.

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