Tag Archives: France

#MH17: Stronger western sanctions on Russia likely within 48 hours

Memorial outside Schiphol airport to the 289 dead of flight MH17, apparently shot down by fighters endorsed by Vladimir Putin's regime. Photograph: Sipa USA/REXMemorial outside Schiphol airport to the 289 dead of flight MH17, apparently shot down by fighters endorsed by Vladimir Putin’s regime. Photograph: Sipa USA/REX

Russia is expected to be hit with further sanctions on Tuesday after the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy called for tougher action against the regime they believe is still shipping weapons into Ukraine despite the MH17 airliner disaster.

The western nations called on the European Union to impose new restrictions on trade with Russia’s defence, banking and hi-tech energy sectors, adding to existing asset freezes and travel bans on a list of people linked to the Kremlin.

New penalties are likely to be agreed at a meeting of ambassadors from all the EU’s 28 member states and could come into force within 24 to 48 hours. The US has already imposed similar trade sanctions and will now strengthen them, amid concerns among western nations that Moscow could still launch a full-scale cross-border intervention in Ukraine.

The joint call for Brussels to stand up to Vladimir Putin was agreed during a video conference between Barack Obama, David Cameron, President François Hollande of France, Italy’s prime minster, Matteo Renzi, and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel.

In a further warning to Russia, some Nato countries are sending troops to Poland in October to take part in a military display called Exercise Black Eagle. Britain is contributing more than 1,300 soldiers to the exercise, which Michael Fallon, the new defence secretary, said was a sign of support for the country’s allies in eastern Europe.

On Tuesday, Cameron will also meet families of some of the British victims of the disaster to express his condolences at a time when rebels are still blocking international experts from reaching the crash site.

There has been a significant toughening in the rhetoric against Russia in recent days over its suspected role in arming pro-Putin separatists in eastern Ukraine. Putin’s government denies any responsibility for the shooting down of Malaysian airliner MH17, killing 295 people. However, the UK, US and Ukraine have all said they suspect it was downed accidentally by rebels using a Soviet-era Buk missile.

Following the leaders’ video call, No 10 said the discussion had focused on “Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilise Ukraine” and agreed that the immediate priority must be to secure unrestricted access to the MH17 crash site.

Downing Street said it agreed that Russia had “failed to take the steps necessary to de-escalate the crisis, such as ceasing support for the separatists; stopping the flow of weapons across the border; and using its influence to ensure the release of hostages.

“Indeed the latest information from the region suggests that even since MH17 was shot down, Russia continues to transfer weapons across the border and to provide practical support to the separatists.”

Tony Blinken, a national security adviser to Obama, also said European leaders had made clear their determination to act. He added: “We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week, including in key sectors of the Russian economy. In turn, and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself.”

The US indicated that the EU was also looking at broadening its criteria for sanctioning individuals in order, Blinken said, to “bring in some of the cronies of President Putin”. Blinken argued that the existing sanctions regime had already produced major strategic gains in Ukraine, leading to a new government and the signing of the EU association agreement.

However, he said US intelligence assessments indicated that Moscow continued to transfer heavy weaponry and fighters across the border and to aid pro-Russian separatists, and had stationed Russian troops near the border. He described Putin’s strategy as one of “doubling down” on support for separatist fighters.

Before the meeting, Russia said it would not retaliate with sanctions of its own or “fall into hysterics”. Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, said the penalties could even make the country “more independent and more confident in our own strength”.

“I assure you, we will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy,” he said. “We can’t ignore it. But to fall into hysterics and respond to a blow with a blow is not worthy of a major country.”

He also denied Russian involvement in the Ukraine conflict and called for “honest, open participation of all those who have access to information about the crash”.

“Anything else we will consider as deceitful attempts to influence the investigation, putting presumption of innocence in doubt,” he said.

“I don’t want to throw accusations in advance, but I expect that no one will try to cover up evidence.”

The Guardian.

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.


Associated Press: Amid sanctions, France in warship sale to Russia

A Ukrainian protester holds a drawing, depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a demonstration in front of the French ambassador's residence in Kyiv against the sale of Mistral-class warships to Russia on July 14.A Ukrainian protester holds a drawing, depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a demonstration in front of the French ambassador’s residence in Kyiv against the sale of Mistral-class warships to Russia on July 14. © AFP

PARIS (AP) — France says it will go ahead with the sale of a warship to Russia, despite calls for an arms embargo against the country, highlighting how Europe’s strong business ties are hindering its ability to punish Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

Western powers say Russia is supporting the insurgents in eastern Ukraine that are accused of shooting down a Malaysian Airliner last week, killing all 298 people on board. European Union foreign ministers met Tuesday to consider more sanctions against Russia but agreed only to impose more asset freezes on individuals, leaving economic relations unscathed.

Some countries, like Britain, argue the plane crash has raised the stakes and Europe cannot be seen going soft on Russia.

But others are more cautious, mindful of the potential costs of pinching business relations. Among other things, Germany imports a third of its energy from Russia. France’s commercial deals include the delivery of two warships, the biggest ever sale by a NATO country of military equipment to Moscow.

French President Francois Hollande on Monday night warned about the costs of cancelling the deal. The first warship, the Vladivostok, is nearly finished and due to be delivered in October.

In this March 5, 2014 file photo, French-built warship BPC Vladivostock, designed to strengthen Russia's ability to deploy troops, tanks and helicopter gunships, leaves the Saint Nazaire's harbor, western France, for its test run on the open sea off coast of France.FILE – In this March 5, 2014 file photo, French-built warship BPC Vladivostok, designed to strengthen Russia’s ability to deploy troops, tanks and helicopter gunships, leaves the Saint Nazaire’s harbor, western France, for its test run on the open sea off coast of France. French President Francois Hollande is defending plans to deliver a 1.1 billion-euro French-made warship to Russia, despite increasing pressure for tougher European sanctions against Moscow over the fighting in Ukraine. European Union foreign ministers are meeting Tuesday July 22, 2014 in Brussels, with some calling for an arms embargo or other new punishment against Russia. Photo By David Vincent/AP Continue reading

Foreign ministers agree on #Ukraine #ceasefire path

People grieve over the body of their friend, a policeman killed during assault by pro-Russian fighters the Interior Ministry headquarters in downtown Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Tuesday, July 1, 2014.People grieve over the body of their friend, a policeman killed during assault by pro-Russian fighters the Interior Ministry headquarters in downtown Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Tuesday, July 1, 2014. The rebels captured the Interior Ministry headquarters in a major city after an hours-long gun battle, a day after the president said rebels weren’t serious about peace talks and ended a cease-fire. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

BERLIN (AP) — Foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France meeting in Berlin agreed Wednesday on a series of steps for a resumption of the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine to de-escalate a conflict that has taken over 400 lives since April.

The steps include reopening talks no later than Saturday “with the goal of reaching an unconditional and mutually agreed sustainable cease-fire” to be monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In the declaration issued after the evening talks, the ministers said they welcomed Russia’s readiness to grant Ukrainian border guards access to Russian territory to take part in controlling two border crossings once the cease-fire is in place.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has increased since the much-violated 10-day cease-fire expired late Monday. On Wednesday, four Ukrainian troops were killed as government forces carried out more than 100 attacks on rebel positions, a military official said.  Continue reading

Ukraine leaders meet security chiefs as end of ceasefire approaches

Merkel, Poroshenko and PutinPutin, Poroshenko, Hollande and Merkel discussed the situation in Ukraine.

(Reuters) – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called a meeting of his security chiefs on Monday to decide whether to extend a shaky ceasefire in the war against separatists that was due to lapse at 10 p.m. (1500 ET).

Poroshenko went into a session of the national security and defense council after four-way telephone discussions with the leaders of Germany, France and Russia aimed at helping end the situation in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east where government forces have been battling pro-Russian separatists since April.

Earlier, the French president’s office said Poroshenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin had agreed to work on a new ceasefire between the opposing sides, work to set up effective border controls and free more hostages and prisoners on both sides.

There was no word from the Ukrainians on how the talks went.

But as Poroshenko began meeting his security chiefs he was facing calls from some of them not to extend the ceasefire beyond the Monday 10 p.m. deadline because of Ukrainian military losses in the past seven days.

Before going into the meeting, Vitaly Yarema, the prosecutor-general, said: “We have to end this and clean our territory of terrorists and give people the chance of living in a normal country.”

Poroshenko extended the original week-long ceasefire by 72 hours last Friday at the urging of the West and Russia, but many on the government side say the separatists are using the time to re-group and rearm.

At least 18 Ukrainian members of the military, including nine on board a helicopter downed by the rebels on June 24, are reported to have been killed during the ceasefire.

After what French President Francois Hollande said was a long conversation also involving German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Poroshenko and Putin agreed to work on a ceasefire between separatists and the Ukrainian authorities and on quickly setting up effective border controls, his office said.

Putin and Poroshenko also agreed to work on freeing more hostages and prisoners and the organization of “substantial tripartite negotiations”, according to the statement.

Poroshenko had urged Putin on Sunday to strengthen Russian control over its borders to prevent militants and arms entering Ukraine after violence led to breaches of a truce there.

The European Union, which signed a landmark free-trade pact with Ukraine on Friday, has warned it could impose more sanctions unless pro-Russian rebels act to wind down the crisis in the east of the country by Monday.

Putin again urged that the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine be extended and a control mechanism to monitor the truce set up, with the participation of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Kremlin said in a separate statement after the talks.

“The leaders spoke in favor of convening a third round of consultations between Kiev and south-eastern regions as soon as possible,” it added.

Hollande’s office said Russia’s and Ukraine’s foreign ministers would be in touch later and that a contact group on Ukraine would meet to discuss implementing agreed moves.

Speaking after the presidents’ call, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian state TV that Moscow was ready to allow monitors from the OSCE security and rights watchdog and Ukraine’s border guards to the Russian side of the border for joint control.

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander in Paris; and Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow, Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau in Paris; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)