No new Russia sanctions likely this week, EU presidency says
Mar. 17, 2015
BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders are not expected to impose new sanctions against Russia at their summit this week over the conflict in Ukraine as long as the peace agreement is being respected, the EU presidency said Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics of Latvia, which holds the EU presidency, said he did not expect "a discussion of new sanctions or any decisions" during the two-day summit in Brussels starting Thursday.
"The first elements of the Minsk agreement are being implemented," Rinkevics said, referring to the deal to halt fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists.
Rinkevics spoke after chairing the last high-level meeting to prepare the EU summit.
The EU has visa bans and asset freezes in place targeting 150 individuals, including high-ranking Russians, and 37 entities like banks, companies and rebel groups.
The U.S. ratcheted up sanctions by adding more individuals to the list last week, and U.S. officials have been in Brussels to coordinate with the EU on the way the restrictive measures are imposed.
The Feb. 12 cease-fire has eased hostilities but Russia has complained that Ukraine is falling short on a pledge to hold local elections.
The EU leaders will affirm their support for the Minsk peace process and underline Russia's responsibilities to implement it, according to a draft of their summit statement seen by The Associated Press.
They will also offer help to improve the ability of Europe's OSCE security organization to monitor the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where more than 6,000 people have been killed in the year-long conflict.
The leaders will also ask EU member states and agencies "to prepare by June an action plan on strategic communication in support of media freedom," the draft statement said.