Europe moves softly softly on Ukraine

An armed pro-Russian activist stands in front of seized the Ukrainian regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian town of Sloviansk, Ukraine, on Monday 14 April 2014, with the Russian national sign in the background An armed pro-Russian activist in front of a seized building in Sloviansk

Since the last European summit - when Europe's leaders warned Russia of further sanctions if there was no de-escalation of the crisis - events have moved fast on the ground.

Pro-Russian militias, most of them armed, have seized buildings in nine eastern and southern Ukrainian towns.

Four town halls have been occupied, as have two police headquarters, two buildings belonging to the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and the regional administrative headquarters in Donetsk.

The territorial integrity of Ukraine has already been weakened.

The United States, Nato and most European leaders believe these actions are being supported by Russia with the intention of destabilising Ukraine.

Start Quote

Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Bildt

If they [the Russians] escalate, then I think we should escalate”

End Quote Carl Bildt Sweden's foreign minister

Even the German government, which has been ambivalent about exerting pressure on the Kremlin, has concluded that "there are a lot of signs that armed gangs in eastern Ukraine are getting support from Russia".

That was the background to the meeting of Europe's foreign ministers.

In the event they agreed to add to the list of 18 Russian and Crimean officials who are subject to travel restrictions and an asset freeze.

A sign of the caution of Europe's ministers is that we do not yet know how many more Russian officials will be subject to these sanctions. That will be worked on on Tuesday.

As regards deeper economic sanctions, Europe is still "completing the work" on what are called Phase Three sanctions.

In Luxembourg, at the final press conference, these economic sanctions were not even mentioned.

For further EU sanctions to be imposed there has to be unanimity.

'More, not less diplomacy'

That will prove difficult to achieve.

It is just possible that if the meeting in Geneva on Thursday - involving the US, Russia, the EU and Ukraine - is unsuccessful then the EU will hold an emergency summit next week to discuss moving to Phase Three and economic sanctions, but there are significant differences between the EU's 28 nation states.

There are those who believe Russia will only listen to a resolute and determined EU.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on during a meeting in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on 14 April 2014 Europe's hesitancy is clear for Russian President Vladimir Putin to see
Women pray for peace near the Ukrainian regional administration building that was seized by pro-Russian activists in the eastern Ukrainian town of Sloviansk, Ukraine, Monday 14 April 2014 Women praying for peace in the eastern Ukrainian town of Sloviansk

The UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said "further sanctions have to be the response to Russia's behaviour".

The Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said "if they [the Russians] escalate, then I think we should escalate"; President Francois Hollande told President Barack Obama that France favoured "firm but graduated sanctions".

But the Dutch Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans, said it was "too early to impose more sanctions".

The German Vice-Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, speaking in Berlin, called for "more, not less diplomacy" from Europe and suggested that "sabre-rattling by Nato" would not solve the problem.

Spain and Italy are both very cautious about strengthening sanctions.

What remains unclear is what would trigger Europe moving to Phase Three and economic sanctions.

Its hesitancy is clear for Moscow to see.

Some are suggesting that Thursday is a last chance for Russia to de-escalate the crisis and to pull back the 40,000 troops it has on the Ukrainian border.

But there are now new facts on the ground: towns effectively occupied by pro-Russian militias who are determined to hold referendums on whether to separate and join Russia.

For Europe it is a defining moment: whether they can find the unity and resolve to stand against borders being re-drawn by force.

Map: Ukraine The map shows towns where pro-Russian activists have seized buildings
Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

Greek elections: Europe waits on voters' verdict

The BBC's Europe editor Gavin Hewitt says Greek voters will not just be choosing a new government but delivering a verdict on Europe.

Read full article

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    I admit I don't know if he'd previously agreed but am pretty sure he hadn't signed the agreement.

    And you're unsure of the conditions of the EU offer ?

    Doing well here .. we're stuck on 1st event !

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    @ 453. All for All : in my opinion, Suez was the final blow to the Empire because the US calculatedly refused to back us, which some (I do) see as a deliberate, fatal stab in the back. In the case of Ukraine, Yanukovich stabbed his own people in the back. In my opinion, he is the villain in this piece. Russia, the US and EU are the sharks fighting over the remains.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Hmmmm, think I agree with you there. Very low rating activity for quite a while. Not many people reading this thread past couple of days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    @ 451. BobTheCrate:
    Re your point 1:
    Incorrect - Yanukovich had already agreed on a EU deal (pretty sure it didn't include the points you mention), which had been at least 2 YEARS in the making and whose details have been known all along. Out of the blue Yanukovich RENEGED on the deal that at that stage only required ratification. No wonder his people were incensed. It's like DC's u-turns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    The role of Britain in the Ukrainian fiasco does not appear minimal, 'economical' fine words preceding a speed of collapse rivalling that in Suez. Many were the 'excuses' in 1956, imperialist mindset, commercial miscalculation, the lessons of appeasement mis-applied, resignation for Eden indicated even without his severe illness & toxic medications. Is not error today as profound?

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    Anyway, this thread is dead. I'm off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Asif, ifinkso,

    How about a quid pro quo on events in chronological order. See where sticking points are ?

    1. Nov 2013 Yanukovich rejected EU austerity conditioned loan & associative EU membership predicated on military integration.

    2. Yanukovich's rejection based on preference to accept Russia's austerity-free offer to buy $15 billion Ukrainian Gov't bonds.

    Agree, disagree or clarification ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    448. ifinkso

    Not a trick questions simply asking.

    Hm, playing silly games, are we, if you find it necessary to add that line. As if we needed any more proof why you shouldn't tell people how to debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    Some people's views are socially unacceptable. In order to try and express them anyway, they have to coat those views in respectability and then claim their right to freedom of speech. As their motives are insincere, i.e. they are knowingly covering up motives that are unacceptable, they devalue freedom of speech in the process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    Asif Smif @ 447:
    "It is sad when you have to even ask the question whether it was right or not that Pussy Riot were jailed. Freedom of speech is being violated by people trying to give their otherwise .."

    Do you know why they were jailed?

    Not a trick questions simply asking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    It is sad when you have to even ask the question whether it was right or not that Pussy Riot were jailed. Freedom of speech is being violated by people trying to give their otherwise objectionable ulterior motives respectability and consequently TRUE freedom is being eroded. Make of that what you will.

  • Comment number 446.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    Oh dear, the tone has lowered considerably over the last few posts. Shame. Leonard L, ElephantTalk and All for All has some very interesting, informed views. Didn't agree with them but at least it made for a constructive debate. Shame that there are always people that need to ruin something good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    441. ifinkso
    OK, let's try to debate.


    Thanks for the offer, but I'll pass. I have already been debating with people with very interesting views from inside regions affected, you wouldn't add any value to that. Maybe try WurzelJ, he seems to have similar ideas to yours on how to debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    BlowTheWhistle @ 439
    "What do you think of The Pussy Riot - should they be jailed?"

    Of course, don't you?

    Think carefully before you answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    Well well - Auntie Beeb deleted me for criticising Farage !!! Interesting.
    I repeat - good for you Asif for seeking a sensible, peaceful conclusion but also for highlighting the shared anti-EU agenda of two odious little people with chips on their shoulders, trying to put the clock back. Farage said recently he admired Putler for his decisiveness. Who is bankrolling UKIP, Nigey-poo ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    Asif Smif @ 437

    OK, let's try to debate.

    Why have sanctions been applied to Russia by the US?

    Answer without using neutral arguments*, straw man comments or soundbites.

    * Opposing arguments that are both factually accurate but without differential when measuring agreed values predicated on same criteria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    In the UK, Cameron & his government have to ask Brussels.


    That means that we have to thank Brussels for the economic recovery then, rather than DC and Osborne. I'll bear that in mind during the EU elections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    436. ifinkso

    You deliberately left out the part of my quote where I called your beloved leader a little guy.

    Scared to upset Putin, after all it is a fact - Putin is a small man - he makes up for his lack of stature with a ruthless viciousness.

    What do you think of The Pussy Riot - should they be jailed?

  • Comment number 438.

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


Page 1 of 23



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.