EU vows more sanctions on Moscow as Biden and Putin talk about Ukraine

The EU has vowed to expand existing sanctions against Russia in the event of “further aggression” against Ukraine as Joe Biden seeks to dissuade Vladimir Putin from launching a military strike on the country.

Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU commission, told EU ambassadors on Tuesday the bloc would “respond appropriately to any further aggression. . . taken against us or our neighbors, including Ukraine” and will take “additional restrictive measures” in addition to economic sanctions in the event of an invasion. .

“We want to engage constructively with Moscow,” she said. “But it depends on them. And now it is Russia’s deliberate choices and aggressive actions that continue to destabilize security in Europe.”

The comments came shortly before a video call between Biden and Putin, which lasted about two hours. The White House said the US President will now brief the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Britain.

Biden held consultations with them on Monday to come up with a united front on the sanctions. In a phone call with Putin, he is expected to detail measures that could cause “severe” damage to Russia’s economy if it invades Ukraine, a US official said later.

Western diplomats told the Financial Times. European officials say the United States is pushing for measures designed to hamper Russia’s ability to convert the ruble into dollars and hit the economic interests of Russian oligarchs.

Western officials briefed on thinking in Washington said that restrictions on the ruble’s conversion to Western currency would make it “much more difficult to sell Russian oil”. They said the sanctions would clearly “go much further” than the Western retaliation after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The United States believes Putin is assembling the troops, equipment and information campaign needed for a military escalation early next year, but it is unclear whether the Russian leader has made the decision to do so.

A new invasion will reactivate a slow-growing conflict in the Donbas, a region of eastern Ukraine on the border with Russia that has claimed the lives of more than 14,000 people since it began in 2014. .

Biden will also address strategic stability, cyberattacks and Iran’s nuclear program during a phone call with Putin, which the Kremlin said it expected to last “for quite some time.”

A senior Biden administration official on Monday said Washington believes “we have a path forward that will involve significant economic countermeasures by both Europe and the United States that will damage the economy.” significant and serious economic damage to the Russian economy, should it choose to proceed”.

The senior EU official added that US intelligence on Russia’s military preparations shared with European nations in recent weeks had “created a sense of urgency” about potential threats. new sanctions.

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 following a pro-Western uprising in Kyiv. Since then, the Kremlin has supported separatist forces in the Donbas region, although it denies any direct involvement in the conflict.

The Minsk Agreements, a 2015 Franco-German peace agreement that froze the main stage of the conflicts, has led to Russia and Ukraine refusing to enforce different parts of the treaty. Moscow has said it sees no benefit in negotiating with Ukraine, which it describes as a Western puppet state run by the US.

Kremlin officials have denied any intention to invade Ukraine and say Moscow is only trying to convince supporters of the Ukrainian government and armed forces to launch a military operation to retake territory currently controlled by the separatists. control in the Donbas.

Meanwhile, Putin asked the West for a legally binding security guarantee on Russia’s “red lines,” which he described as a commitment that NATO would not admit Ukraine to the bloc or deploy troops. and domestic weapons.

After Moscow annexed Crimea, the US and EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Russian government and security officials as well as others close to Putin who may have influenced Putin. influence this decision.

The US soon added a ban on dealings with some Russian companies and their executives. Western countries also ban energy and infrastructure-related lending and investment to projects in Crimea or to entities linked to the annexed peninsula.

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