Tag Archives: EU

Russia says EU sanctions weaken anti-terror efforts #MH17


More bodies arrived at Eindhoven on Friday as forensic experts   continue trying to identify remains.More bodies arrived at Eindhoven on Friday as forensic experts continue trying to identify remains.

Russia says new EU sanctions against it over the Ukraine crisis will jeopardise security co-operation against terror.

The Russian foreign ministry said the EU would bear the blame for the move which sees 15 officials and 18 entities subject to asset freezes and visa bans.

The EU and US accuse Russia of backing Ukraine’s rebels. Moscow denies this.

Meanwhile, the last remains of the victims of the crashed Malaysian airliner flew out of eastern Ukraine for the Netherlands.

The departure of the aircraft from the city of Kharkiv with 38 coffins brings the total number of bodies sent for identification to 227.

The Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on 17 July, killing all 298 people – including 193 Dutch nationals – on board.

Pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine have been accused of downing the plane by a missile.

Here a Ukrainian woman cries during a religious service held by villagers in memory of the victims at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight, near the village of Grabove, eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Vadim Ghirda/AP.Here a Ukrainian woman cries during a religious service held by villagers in memory of the victims at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight, near the village of Grabove, eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Vadim Ghirda/AP.

Russia has frequently denied sending heavy weapons into Ukraine. Moscow has suggested the plane could have been shot down by the Ukrainian military. Ukraine has denied the charge.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.

‘Threatening’ tone

In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry said the new EU sanctions showed that the 28-member bloc was taking “a complete turn away from joint work with Russia on international and regional security, including the fight against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, organised crime and other challenges”.

“We believe these decisions will be greeted enthusiastically by international terrorists”.

In a separate statement, the Russian ministry also accused the US of “an unrelenting campaign of slander against Russia”.

The EU sanctions were agreed after lengthy negotiations in Brussels on Friday.

The senior Russian officials targeted include Federal Security Service head Alexander Bortnikov, foreign intelligence head Mikhail Fradkov and Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian security council.

The leader of Russia’s southern Chechnya republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, is also on the list.

The tone of the latest Russian statement on the EU sanctions is indignant, even threatening, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford in Moscow reports.

Some of the victims' relatives have now arrived at the crash site in eastern Ukraine.Some of the victims’ relatives have now arrived at the crash site in eastern Ukraine.

If the aim of international sanctions was to force Russia to change its stance on Ukraine, it is clear that that so far this is not happening, our correspondent says.

Crash site talks

In Kharkiv, teams of Dutch and Australian police are waiting for clearance from both Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels to help search for the remaining bodies at the crash site near Grabove, which is controlled by the rebels.

They hope that such a deployment would allow experts, who have faced difficulties gaining access to the site, to proceed with the investigation amid continuing fighting in the region.

Malaysian PM Najib Razak has said he will fly to the Netherlands next week to discuss the issue.

Map: Fatal flight path of Flight MH17 and Area of pro-Russian rebel activity.

BBC News.

EU to widen Russia sanctions #MH17


EU ministers have been meeting in Brussels to discuss tightening sanctions against Russia for backing the rebel separatist fighters blamed for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines plane.

There is widespread anger over the plane crash in eastern Ukraine, in which 298 people died.

A statement after the talks said that the EU would prepare “proposals for taking action, including on access to capital markets, defence, dual-use goods, and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector”.

Gavin Hewitt reports from Brussels.

Bloomberg: France prepared to cancel warship sale to Russia


A group of expatriates and local residents rally at the French Embassy in Kyiv on June 1 to protest France's sale of two warships worth $1.6 billion to Russia. © Kostyantyn ChernichkinA group of expatriates and local residents rally at the French Embassy in Kyiv on June 1 to protest France’s sale of two warships worth $1.6 billion to Russia. © Kostyantyn Chernichkin

French President Francois Hollande said he’s prepared to cancel the sale of a second Mistral helicopter carrier ship to Russia if the European Union decides to expand its sanctions against Russia.

The second ship, due in 2016, hasn’t yet been paid for, making it possible to withhold the sale if the EU agrees to broaden its measures on Russia, Hollande said yesterday at the annual presidential press dinner.

At the same time, sanctions can’t be retroactive and wouldn’t cover delivery of the Vladivostok, the first Mistral warship, which is already paid for and due for delivery in October, Hollande said.

“Can the rest of the contract be honored?” Hollande told reporters in Paris about the second warship part of a contract with Russia. “That will depend on Russia’s attitude.”

EU foreign ministers are meeting today in Brussels to consider further sanctions punishing Russia in light of evidence that separatists in eastern Ukraine shot down a Malaysian airliner last week with 298 passengers on board. The sanctions described by Hollande would need to be decided at the level of national leaders, so no such decision would come today.

The U.S. and European countries have pressured France to delay or cancel the delivery of the Mistral ships after Russian annexed the Crimea and was accused of fomenting separatist uprisings in eastern Ukraine.

Company Sanctions

“With so many European Union citizens lost in the Malaysian Airlines crash, it is hard to see how the French Mistral deal can go ahead,” Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank Plc in London, said in an e-mail before Hollande made his remarks. “The British seem prepared to stomach enhanced financial sector sanctions, which the French had argued that they had to see before pulling the Mistral deal.”

The EU has already imposed what are known as Level 2 sanctions, which target specific persons and companies, because of Russian support for Ukrainian separatists.

A further step — which has been the source of dispute within the EU — would be Level 3 sanctions that apply to entire economic sectors such as the defense, banking and energy industries. While hitting Russia harder, those measures would also have a greater cost to the European nations.

The Mistral is a 200-meter (656-foot) ship, capable of carrying as many as 700 combat troops, 16 helicopters and 60 armored vehicles. It is built by state-owned military contractor DCNS and the shipbuilder STX in Saint-Nazaire, where 400 Russian sailors arrived last month to train on the Vladivostok.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was quoted yesterday by the Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency as saying that he doubted France would break the Mistral contract.

“Billions of euros are involved,” he said, according to the state-owned news agency. “The French are very pragmatic.”

Russia is buying the Mistrals with French equipment, including combat navigation devices, and will arm them with its own weaponry, according to Itar-Tass.


Bloomberg.

Ukraine, EU take big step towards each other


European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso (L), head of European Council Herman Van Rumpuy (C) and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko shake hands after signing the economic part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU on June 27 in Brussels.European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso (L), head of European Council Herman Van Rumpuy (C) and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko shake hands after signing the economic part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU on June 27 in Brussels. © President Petro Poroshenko’s press office

By signing an economic part of the association agreement with the European Union on June 27, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko finally ​completed a deal that triggered a revolution ​toppling his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, for backing out of the same agreement.

Poroshenko used the same pen to ink the document in Brussels ​that Yanukvoych was supposed to use during the Nov. 29 summit in Vilnius​, but resisted despite hours of persuasion from European officials that night.

This time​,​ E​uropean Union  leaders Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy did not have to persuade​ or cajole anybody​. Poroshenko eagerly signed with leaders of bloc’s 28 countries. ​The political part of the association agreement was signed ​earlier, ​on March 21, ​during the post-revolutionary interim presidency of Oleksandr Turchynov.​The​ economic part is focused on establishing free trade regime between Ukraine and the EU, country’s biggest trading partner with $51.4 billion in ​trade ​2013. ​By comparison, trad​e ​with Russia reached $45 billion last year, while Ukraine’s dependence on Gazprom’s gas and providing gas transportation system for the needs of Russian gas monopolist inflate the figure.  Continue reading

EU plays hardball with Russia on gas issue


The European Commission has ruled that the intergovernmental agreements underpinning South Stream with all the countries along its route, which include Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia, do not comply with EU competition law and require revision before the pipeline can be built.The European Commission has ruled that the intergovernmental agreements underpinning South Stream with all the countries along its route, which include Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia, do not comply with EU competition law and require revision before the pipeline can be built. © http://www.gazprom.com/

Although the European Union, Ukraine, and Russia have yet to reach an agreement on Ukraine’s gas bill, over the past several weeks it has become clear that the EU holds strong cards in its gas relationship with Russia and is using them effectively.

The Bulgarian government last week bowed to the inevitable, accepting the demands of the European Commission to suspend construction of their parts of Gazprom’s South Stream pipeline designed to bypass Ukraine and bring Russian gas to Europe via a new southern corridor.

The Commission has ruled that the intergovernmental agreements underpinning South Stream with all the countries along its route, which include Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia, do not comply with EU competition law and require revision before the pipeline can be built.

The Commission has also, and perhaps more pointedly, begun to investigate the tender process that led to the award of a $4.7 billion contract for the construction of the Bulgarian section of the pipeline to a consortium headed by the Russian company Stroytransgaz. Stroytransgaz’s owner is sanctioned billionaire and Putin ally, Gennady Timchenko.

Sofia’s decision is a blow to Russia that will delay its long-standing effort to separate its relations with Ukraine from its European gas business. If built, South Stream’s capacity of 63 billion cubic meters per year will reduce Russia’s gas transit dependency on Ukraine to zero by 2020. Russia currently exports around 50 precent of its gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine, and the alternative route offered by South Stream would deprive Ukraine of a critical source of influence in its relationship with both Russia and Europe.

Of course, not all the countries through which the South Stream pipeline passes have bowed down to EU pressure. After meeting with his Serbian counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Serbia would begin building its stretch of the pipeline next month.

By challenging the legality of South Stream, however, the Commission has kicked the project into the long grass and forced Russia to seek an alternative solution to the vexed issue of gas transit through Ukraine.  Continue reading