EU wavers on tougher sanctions on Russia
BRUSSELS — Despite tough rhetoric decrying Russia’s increasing military involvement in Ukraine, European Union leaders on Sunday stopped short of imposing new sanctions against Moscow right away. Instead, the 28-nation bloc’s heads of state and government tasked their executive body to “urgently undertake preparatory work” for tougher economic sanctions, according to summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy. The sanctions will depend on the evolution of the situation on the ground but “everybody is fully aware that we have to act quickly,” he added. The preparatory work will start Monday, he added. The fighting between the military and Russianbacked separatists in eastern Ukraine has so far claimed 2,600 lives, according to U.N. figures. NATO said this week that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine, which Russia denies. Another 20,000 Russian troops are amassed just across Ukraine’s eastern border, NATO says. Several European leaders had called for additional sanctions at the outset of the meeting in Brussels, but the fear of an economic backlash apparently prevailed and led the bloc to grant Russia another chance at avoiding tougher action. New sanctions would have required unanimity among the leaders. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who briefed the leaders at the beginning of their talks, said a strong response was needed to the “military aggression and terror” facing his country. Conceding ground in the face of a reinvigorated rebel offensive, Ukraine said Saturday that it was abandoning a city where its forces have been surrounded by rebels for days. Government forces were also pulling back from another it had claimed to have taken control of two weeks earlier.
Ukrainian loyalist fighters stand guard on a hill on the outskirts of Mariupol on Saturday.