European Leaders Warn Russian Invasion of East Ukraine Is ‘A Point Of No Return’
Russia’s invasion of east Ukraine is a ‘point of no return’ and risks a ‘state of war’ with Europe, European Union leaders warn
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels
4:59PM BST 30 Aug 2014
EU leaders warned Russia’s invasion of east Ukraine was at a “point of no return”, risking a “state of war” with Europe and instructed officials to prepare new sanctions to hit the Russian economy.
A summmit in Brussels on Saturday gave the green light to toughened economic sanctions, targeting Russia’s finances, oligarchs linked to the Russian president and the country’s vast mineral wealth.
Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuania’s president and a staunch critic of Mr Putin’s Russia, called on the EU to get serious as Russia’s war in the Ukraine menaced peace in Europe for the first time in decades.
“Russia is in a state of war against Ukraine and that is against a country which wants to be part of Europe. Russia is practically in a state of war against Europe,” she said.
Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, said that the EU was prepared for new sanctions against and pleaded with Mr Putin to step back from the brink of outright war between Russia and the Ukraine.
“We are in a very serious, I would say, dramatic situation. We may see a situation where we reach the point of no return. If the escalation of the conflict continues, this point of no return can come,” he said following a meeting with Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s President.
“The opening of new fronts and the use of Russian regular forces is not acceptable and represents a grave transgression. No one’s interest is served by new wars on our continent. No one’s interest is served by confrontation.”
President Poroshenko, who held talks with David Cameron in the wings of the EU summit, appealed to EU leaders not to stand by while his country became “subject to foreign military aggression and terror” from Russia.
“Today we are talking about the fate of Ukraine, but tomorrow it could be the fate of security and stability of all of Europe,” he said.
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko (L) and European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso give a press conference following their meeting at the EU Council building in Brussels
The Prime Minister has pledged to use the City of London’s dominance in financial services to cut Russia’s economy off from cash, according to diplomatic sources and has privately pushed for the Russians to lose the right to hold the 2018 World Cup.
“We have to address the completely unacceptable situation of having Russian troops on Ukraine soil. Consequences must follow if that situation continues,” he said.
European leaders will tell Mr Putin that unless he withdraws troops and pulls back from “direct military confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian military forces” that the EU will move to introduce new economic sanctions over the coming weeks.
European Union leaders instructed their officials on Saturday to prepare urgently possible new sanctions against Russia over its involvement in Ukraine, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.
EU leaders, meeting in Brussels, will say that they stand ready to take further steps against Russia depending on developments on the ground, according to the draft.
A prisoner-of-war, who is a Ukrainian serviceman captured by pro-Russian separatists, sits on the ground (REUTERS)
Mr Barroso said officials and diplomats had already drawn up a menu of measures focused on cutting off Russia’s access to financing its economy and preventing Russian energy companies from buying Western technologies.
“We have done our work,” he said. “We are ready to take very strong and clear measures.” The new economic sanctions are expected to include measures to paralyse its banking system and to hit the country’s immense mineral wealth.
Mr Cameron will call on the EU to bring its sanctions into line with US measures that target many Russian oligarchs close to Mr Putin and companies with links to the Russian state.
Britain is also pressing for Russia to be blocked from accessing the Swift banking transaction system which is one of its main connections to the international financial system.
European diplomats are also drawing up a list of political sanctions aimed at Mr Putin’s highly developed sense of prestige, robbing him of high-profile sporting events, such as the World Cup and barring him from participating in international summits.
Francois Hollande, the French leader, said the Ukraine crisis is “the biggest crisis since the end of the Cold War”.
“It’s close to Europe. It’s on the border of Europe… What is happening concerns Europe directly. Not just Europe, the whole world, but especially Europe,” he added.
Unlike other world leaders, Mr Hollande stopped short of confirming the presence of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil, saying it was “probable” there were Russian soldiers there and definitely “armed rebels helped by Russia”.
However, he said recent events were a “definite escalation” with “2,500 dead in the last few weeks”.
“Europe has to act. It already has. But in the face of this escalation in tension, there are new decisions to be taken,” he said.