Ukraine un­der food em­bargo


Rus­sia urged the Euro­pean Union on Satur­day to lift sanc­tions against Moscow and promised to waive its food em­bargo, but a top EU of­fi­cial re­jected such a move as the bloc im­posed fresh mea­sures on Ukrainian rebels.

The Euro­pean Union and the United States im­posed eco­nomic sanc­tions on Rus­sia in late July, tar­get­ing the Rus­sian en­ergy, bank­ing and de­fense sec­tors to pun­ish Moscow’s support for rebels in east­ern Ukraine, the West’s tough­est steps yet. In re­tal­i­a­tion, Moscow has banned most Western food im­ports, worth $9 bil­lion a year.

“We don’t ex­pect any­thing from our Euro­pean part­ners. The only thing we ex­pect is for them to leave the mean­ing­less sanc­tions spi­ral and move onto the path of lifting the sanc­tions and drop­ping the black­lists,” Rus­sia’s deputy for­eign min­is­ter, Alexei Meshkov, was quoted as say­ing by In­ter­fax news agency.“This, in turn, would al­low us to drop our lists.”

The ges­ture from Moscow came as the Euro­pean Union im­posed sanc­tions on 13 Ukraini­ans ac­cused of or­ga­niz­ing rogue elec­tions in east­ern Ukraine on Nov. 2, hit­ting the sep­a­ratists and their or­ga­ni­za­tions with as­set freezes and travel bans.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the new pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, said Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Ukraine’s Crimea re­gion in March left Europe with two op­tions: go to war against Rus­sia or im­pose eco­nomic sanc­tions.

“If you don’t want a war the only pos­si­bil­ity is sanc­tions ... You have to take sanc­tions that pro­duce an ef­fect,” Juncker told RTL ra­dio in Lux­em­bourg, his home coun­try. “One has to main­tain those sanc­tions as long as, on the ground, we do not see Rus­sian ges­tures aimed at paci­fy­ing the re­gion,” he said, re­fer­ring to Ukraine.

Ear­lier this week, Rus­sian Fi­nance Minis- ter An­ton Silu­anov said lower oil prices and Western fi­nan­cial sanc­tions will cost Rus­sia around $130 bil­lion-$140 bil­lion a year, equiv­a­lent to around 7 per­cent of its econ­omy.

Meshkov put the losses from sanc­tions for the EU at $50 bil­lion next year, adding that trade turnover in some prod­ucts be­tween Rus­sia and Europe had de­clined by dou­ble digit per­cent­ages.

A Reuters re­port this month showed that Euro­pean ex­ports to Rus­sia fell almost 20 per­cent in Au­gust com­pared to July be­cause of the sanc­tions.

Juncker said he did not see the point of con­stantly threat­en­ing more sanc­tions but warned that more mea­sures could come if Moscow did not take steps to re­solve the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine.

EU of­fi­cials are con­cerned that a Septem­ber cease­fire in Ukraine is not be­ing up­held and say that the vote by rebels in east­ern Ukraine was en­cour­aged by Rus­sia to un­der­mine Kiev’s sovereignty.

Rebels ar­gued the Nov. 2 vote was the next step after lo­cal ref­er­en­dums in May call­ing for in­de­pen­dence from Ukraine.

The United States and Euro­pean Union de­nounced the vote as “il­le­gal and il­le­git­i­mate”, but Rus­sia has said it would rec­og­nize the re­sult, deep­en­ing a cri­sis that be­gan with the popular over­throw of Ukraine’s Moscow-backed pres­i­dent in Fe­bru­ary and Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of the Crimean penin­sula. In its of­fi­cial jour­nal, the Euro­pean Union said Sergey Kozyakov, who was elec­tion com­mis­sion chief in the Luhansk re­gion “has ac­tively sup­ported ac­tions and poli­cies which un­der­mine the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, sovereignty and in­de­pen­dence of Ukraine”.

Oth­ers on the sanc­tions list are elec­tion or­ga­niz­ers and separatist min­is­ters in Luhansk and in the east­ern re­gion of Donetsk. They are ac­cused of the same wrong­do­ing as Kozyakov.—Reuters

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