EU sanctions Wagner, tries to deter attack on Ukraine – News

EU foreign ministers say they are ready to impose further measures if an accumulation of troops near the Ukrainian border leads to direct military action



European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks to the media upon his arrival for a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels. – AP

By AFP

Posted: Mon 13 Dec 2021, 21:40

On Monday, EU foreign ministers imposed sanctions on Russian mercenary team Wagner and touted what they warned to be an unprecedented economic response to any military attack on Ukraine.

After a meeting of G7 ministers in Liverpool over the weekend, where the United States and its main allies warned the Kremlin of “massive” consequences in the event of an invasion, the 27 EU ministers stood together. met Monday in Brussels.

They first approved a list of eight names and three companies associated with the Russian private military company Wagner to be immediately added to existing sanctions regimes.

Then they signaled that they were ready to impose huge new measures targeting the Russian economy if an accumulation of troops near the Ukrainian border led to direct military action.

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“Let me say, once again, firmly that the European Union is united in supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Borrell told reporters after the talks.

“The ministers – all of them – were very clear today that any aggression against Ukraine will have political consequences and a high economic cost for Russia.

“We are coordinating globally with our transatlantic and like-minded partners,” he added,

Ahead of the talks, Lithuanian Gabrielius Landsbergis stressed that the threat of sanctions was a deterrent but that, if necessary, they should be on “an unprecedented scale”.

Monday’s meeting was the EU’s first Foreign Affairs Council for Germany’s new Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, a green politician who took office last week in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s new coalition.

Berlin holds one of the most important cards in the sanctions game, if it decides that President Vladimir Putin’s actions justify blocking the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

Asked about the threat to Ukraine before going to Brussels, Baerbock told ZDF television that “in case of further escalation, this pipeline could not come into service”.

After the Brussels meeting, Baerbock insisted that Germany’s position on the pipeline had been clarified, without repeating it, and declared that “any action by Russia would have serious diplomatic consequences”.

Moreover, a sign of Brussels’ determination to respond to what it considers to be the Kremlin’s efforts to “destabilize” Ukraine, Syria, Libya and several African countries, sanctions have been imposed on Wagner.

Wagner is reportedly funded by St. Petersburg businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, 60, who has already been hit by EU and US sanctions for destabilizing Libya and meddling in US elections .

In addition to the Wagner company and three related companies, the sanctions list targeted eight people, including the alleged group commander.

Those sanctioned included:

Dmitry Utkin, a 51-year-old former Russian secret service lieutenant colonel, once decorated by Putin and who would now be Wagner’s commander and responsible for mercenary operations in Ukraine.

Utkin is accused of extrajudicial executions, in particular of having ordered that a Syrian deserter be tortured to death and filmed.

Alexander Kuzentsov, a 44-year-old Russian, is said to have headed Wagner’s 1st Attack and Reconnaissance Company under the call sign “Ratibor”, accused of threatening the peace and security of Libya.

Retired Colonel Andrei Roshev, 68, founding executive director of Wagner, now commands mercenary troops in Syria in support of Bashar Al Assad’s regime under the call sign “Siedoy”.

Monday’s talks will also help prepare the meeting of EU leaders with the “Eastern Partnership” – Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan – on Wednesday.

Belarus left the group after the EU accused strongman Alexander Lukashenko of rigging his re-election, but opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is in Brussels.

The EU wants to present its eastern neighbors with a united front against what it sees as destabilizing Russian interference in the region, a senior European diplomat told AFP.

Christi C. Elwood