Early rounds fired in sanctions war against Russia

Russian armoured vehicles drive on the road between Simferopol and Sevastopol If Russia formally annexes Ukraine on the basis of the weekend referendum further sanctions will be imposed

All sanctions are intended to persuade, to change minds and to raise the cost of courses of action.

President Putin and his close circle will on Monday have been watching Brussels and Washington, trying to decipher their determination to hurt Russia over its actions in Crimea.

The acid test is whether the steps of the West carry conviction and reflect resolve.

EU foreign ministers have taken a cautious, modest step.

Putin's 'inner circle'

Twenty-one Russians and Ukrainians have been targeted for asset-freezes and travel bans.

Ukrainian special troops stand guard in front of the parliament during a session in Kiev (17 March 2014) Ukraine has announced a partial mobilisation of its forces and requested equipment from Nato
A pro-Russian supporter speaks to Ukrainian police during a rally outside the regional administration in Donetsk  (17 March 2014) Tensions are high in the east of Ukraine. especially in the city of Donetsk
A soldier stands guard near armoured vehicles parked in front of the Ukrainian Ground Forces Academy in western Ukrainian city of Lviv All the time there is the risk of an outbreak of violence in the country
President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine, in the White House (17 March 2014) The US has given itself the right to impose sanctions on named officials of the Russian government

But the ministers decided against cancelling a scheduled EU-Russian summit later in the year.

Meanwhile, the US government has imposed financial sanctions on 11 Russians and Ukrainians whom it holds responsible for the operation in Crimea.

It has also given itself the right to impose sanctions on named officials of the Russian government and any designated individual or entity that operates with the Russian arms industry.

Economy 'in crisis'

The next round comes on Tuesday when President Putin addresses both houses of the Russian parliament.

A woman stands under a board listing foreign currency rates against the Russian ruble just outside an exchange office in central Moscow (January 2014) Russia's weak point is its economy

If he moves to formally annexe Crimea on the basis of the weekend referendum that will trigger further sanctions from the EU at their summit on Thursday and Friday.

But these are the early rounds.

Another step would be to target those in President Putin's inner circle.

Everyone knows the real question is whether the EU is prepared to move towards economic sanctions that affect Russian exports and business.

Such measures can take many forms, including the full sanctions that did such harm to the Iranian economy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi (17 March 2014) Russia has begun laying out its vision to end the crisis

We are a long way from that point. It would require a unanimous decision from the 28 EU members and there are many doubters.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that any measures must leave "ways and possibilities open to prevent a further escalation that could lead to the division of Europe".

His Dutch counterpart said he would "do anything possible to avoid sanctions because I believe everybody will suffer".

Italy, Spain and Greece - among others - would take a lot of persuading.

But that is the dilemma for Europe - it will only carry conviction if it is prepared to accept some pain itself.

And Russia's weak point is its economy.

Its Deputy Economy Minister, Sergei Belyakov, said on Monday that "the economy shows clear signs of a crisis".

The Russian Central Bank has so far spent more than $16bn (£9.5bn) defending the rouble.

Long way apart

Russia has begun laying out its vision to end the Ukraine crisis.

It envisages an international support group - but Ukraine would have to recognise Crimea's secession.

Kiev would have to adopt a new constitution upholding Ukraine's military and political neutrality.

Although the Europeans have asked for a "contact group", the two sides are far apart.

And all the time there is the risk of an outbreak of violence. Ukraine has announced a partial mobilisation of its forces and requested equipment from Nato.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday: "I wouldn't describe it as a new Cold War, but of course this will depend on the course of events over the coming days."

Crimea map showing key locations and airbases
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  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    the last time i looked on a map the Crimea was part of the Ukraine you can not just have a referendum on the sovereignty on just one part of that country in just one week and by the way all of the Ukrainian people would need to vote in the referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Did the US and NATO think they could march up to Russian border and expect the red carpet treatment? Don't listen to propagandist, listen to leaked phone calls by US diplomats and Estomian FM, then decide who instigated the crisis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Crimea was never Russian land and only belonged to RU when Ukraine was taken, like Austria was taken by Germany in 1938. Just by communists.
    RU along USA, UK, China promised to take care of UKR border integrity if UKR will give up its own, 3rd largest nuke stash.
    RU is land lender on Crimea in exchange for better gas price
    RU wants this land coz of military importance in case UKR joins NATO


  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    45. Chris London

    'Your point about gas is interesting, the question you should be asking is what if Russia pull the plug, many EU countries will feel the pain'

    Turkey and Germany likely most affected


    Strategically whether it takes years or not they will seek alternative sources

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    The situation is very serious and the one that will affect the whole Europe sooner or later, the truth about the snipers will come out...sooner or later the people of Ukraine will understand that they are funding the Wall Street and the IMF , sooner or later the Nazism threat will be quiet obvious and the racism in Ukraine will lead to the further bloodshed , will you blame Russia again ?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    The brainwashed here should reflect and think! It is Russia that is on the defensive and the UK/USA/EU imperialism on the march. break up of Yugoslavia cooked in NATO kitchen (bosnia, kosovo). Afaganistan, Iraq, East Timor, Africa etc. UK/US/EU imperialism is live and well! Lets hope and you declare war on Russia. Lets give the masses some shock and awe Iraq like live entertainment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    I don't care how many times I will be called the Kremlin Propaganda-never even been to Russia, but never mind :) But I know that Crimea is Russia, Crimeans have spoken and this is a democracy at its highest. The only country threatening the peace in the Europe is not Russia , but Ukraine-they need to stop the far-rights immediately to avoid more bloodshed and crime, Nazism is a worrying trend .

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    50 Maya
    if you read an earlier post I said that the Crimea election is equally as valid as the Kiev takeover. Unlike you, I have no bias. If Crimea want to be Russian let them I say, BUT for Putin to say that his green men are there to protect Russians is rubbish. He's just grabbing what he can before Ukraine goes west. Donetsk next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    @ Maya # 44. I have been to Ukraine many times (30+) in the last 18 years. I speak and understand Ukrainian and Russian fluently. I've been watching both Ukr and Rus TV for years. I think I understand Slavic history better than most covering the last millennium.I have good friends in St Petersburg,Moscow,Kazan,Lviv, Kyiv,Odesa,Yalta, Chekasy,Kherson.I hope that answers yr question.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    for once I agree that the issue is an Ukrainian matter not one for Russia or the EU and certainly the USA. I hate to say but I fear that this situation has been cause by the EU's meddling and its desire for expansion at any cost. They have little in the way or experience of diplomacy at this level and now have been forced into a corner. Merkel for one does not want to get involved, just pathetic!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    After the result of the referendum in Crimea reported fair with no full play by all reported in various News channels the decision take by the EU at best is presumptuous and the worst stupid.
    For the EU and specially for the EZ is a economic suicide the net trade with Russia and supply of gas from Russia are 100% more important of the barmy decision of the USA

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Roger W and the other one
    Both of you guys are talking of humanity, but thinking like Wall Street, capitalism in its mildest form can not be democratic, but now it is turning wild and needs a new country to rob -Ukraine. Intervention was when NATO was bombing Yugoslavia , how democratic referendum in Crimea is an intervention, because Obama sad so, think for yourselves and then think again,Bless !

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.


    I'm born and bred and proud to be British (England, London). I certainly appreciate democracy and free speech. All I know, as we all do, Putin and his government are liars. Too many examples to list.... no Russian solders in Crimea, no gays in Sochi.....it goes on. Whatever the outcome no one in the civilized world will ever trust Russia whilst Putin stays in power. Slava Ukraini.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Much as I hate to admit it, the Ruissian interest in Crimea is altogether legitimate in terms of their right of defence, and the expulsion of an elected leader as well as the interference by the US to influence entry into the EU/NATO serves to exacerbate the reaction. But talking this into another cold war is barmy, take a grip, BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    41 Maya
    you have selective Russion history........what about Holodomor?....the killing by Stalin of 7 MILLION Ukrainians by starvation in 1932-33 and then the killing of Ukrainian culture and its language during Soviet times. No wonder there are many Russian speakers in Ukraine

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    The Ukrainians protested against thieve who stole billions from their country. Shame that BBC did not report on details of that. I think that instead of sanctions perhaps the Russians also should find out how much money Russian leaders keep in Virgin Islands... I don't think that Russians have seen Meet the Russian yet on their television...

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    36.Arthur Daley
    Your point about gas is interesting, the question you should be asking is what if Russia pull the plug, many EU countries will feel the pain and it will take years to replace this energy source. There is also the fact that Russia has been bankrolling Ukraine for years and what the EU is offering falls way short of matching their current aid. In fact it would need to be trebled

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Stating the facts is not propaganda, changing the subject, attacking and not discussing them is worrying.I don't think you have been to Ukraine and seen what these far-rights have done to the country.People actually live in fear.They are armed, they are marching the streets with Nazi insignia , robbing people and politicians, I bet you cant wait to meet, don't worry they are coming to UK ..


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