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Senior European politicians call for new sanctions on Russia after Ukraine aggression

Ukrainian national guard soldiers stand in position at the checkpoint in Berdyansk, south coast of Azov sea, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Russia and Ukraine traded blame after Russian border guards on Sunday opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels and eventually seized them and their crews. The incident put the two countries on war footing and raised international concern. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

From WN

Several European politicians discussed potential new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday after Moscow captured three Ukrainian vessels at sea over the weekend, according to Reuters.

Amid growing fears about a wider conflict growing between Kiev and Moscow, several lawmakers said they were considering tougher sanctions against Moscow.

Senior German conservative Borbert Roettgen, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the European Union may need to increase its sanctions against Russia, which were partially imposed due to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Karin Kneissl, foreign minister of Austria, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the EU would consider sanctions depending “on the exposition of facts and the further conduct of both parties.”

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki told Reuters the incident vindicated previous calls from Warsaw for a more unified front against Russia aggression.

“Russia remains wrongly convinced that the reaction of the West isn’t unified… because in energy matters there is one stance and in defense matters there is another,” he said, noting that some EU states such as Germany backed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that increases Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.

But it’s unclear if all 28 EU member states would agree to a joint text on Tuesday which called on the Kremlin to free the Ukrainian ships and sailors, some of whom were injured during the event.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declined to answer when asked about possible new sanctions.

EU foreign affairs ministers will discuss the issue on Dec. 10 and will likely agree to extend the bloc’s existing sanctions on Moscow later next month, according to diplomatic sources.

Sources said the recent events weakened the arguments of Italy and others who have argued against sanctions targeting Moscow for its behavior in Ukraine, both in Crimea and by supporting separatists fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

Moscow attempted to blame Kiev after Russia opened fire and seized the boats and crew on Sunday in the Kerch Straight off the coast of Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Merkel on Monday to say Moscow was prepared to defend its version of events and claimed Kiev tried to provoke Moscow to trigger a crisis.

Ukraine’s Parliament agreed with President Petro Poroshenko to implement martial law for 30 days in portions of the country it deemed vulnerable to an attack from Russia and defended the three ships as having done nothing wrong.

Several of the Ukrainian sailors held by Russia for “straying” into Russian waters appeared on Russian state TV where they admitted to being part of a planned provocation, but Kiev said those were forced confessions.

A court in Crimea sentenced seven of the 24 Ukrainian soldiers to be detained for two months pending a possible trial, and it’s likely the other sailors will also be detained in separate hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday., Maureen Foody

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