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EU warns Russia of ‘more action’ if Ukraine pact breached

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Brussels: The European Union (EU) has warned Russia that it is ready to take more action in addition to the sanctions it has already imposed if a new Ukraine peace pact is breached, the bloc’s president Donald Tusk said late on Thursday.
“The debate focused on how to support the implementation of the agreement – if it does not happen we will not hesitate to take the necessary steps,” the European Council chief told a press conference after a European Union summit yesterday.

The summit focused on the truce deal signed earlier yesterday in the Belarus capital Minsk after marathon talks between the presidents of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France aimed at ending a 10-month conflict between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists.

Tusk said the EU would go ahead anyway with new sanctions against 19 Russian and Ukrainian individuals and nine entities next week, despite having agreed on Monday to suspend implementation for a week to boost the chances of success of the Minsk talks.

“Our trust in the goodwill of President Putin is limited, this is why we have to maintain our decision on sanctions,” he said.

Brussels first imposed targeted sanctions on individuals after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 but adopted tougher economic measures after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July.

But Tusk said the leaders had not discussed any further sanctions against Russia.

He said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had given EU leaders a “sobering assessment” of the deal and the “terrible situation in his country as a result of Russian aggression.”

Poroshenko earlier warned that it would be hard to make a success of the deal between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists. “It was very difficult negotiation and we expect not easy implementation process,” Poroshenko said in Brussels.

Meanwhile, the US welcomed the ceasefire deal reached following peace talks between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany in Minsk, to put an end to the fighting in Ukraine, a White House statement said Thursday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also urged all parties to the Ukraine conflict to fulfill the commitments made at the peace talks in Minsk and ensure a genuine and lasting ceasefire.

In a statement released through his spokesperson, Ban commended the efforts made by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany to bring the conflict to an end, according to a Xinhua report.

“In that regard, the secretary general expects that the commitments which have been made in Minsk will be respected by the parties. He urges the parties concerned to ensure that a genuine and lasting ceasefire commences Feb 15 as agreed, paving the way for a broader political settlement of the conflict, based on the Minsk accords,” said the statement.

Ban also said that the UN stands ready to assist “in any way deemed helpful”, and promised that the UN would continue to monitor the human rights situation in Ukraine and deliver humanitarian support to those in need.

Earlier Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced a peace deal following 14-hour marathon talks in Minsk.

The deal envisages a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and independence-seeking insurgents starting Sunday, followed by the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line and constitutional reform to give eastern Ukraine more autonomy.

The peace talks that began Wednesday has been seen as the high point of intensive mulitilateral efforts aimed at finding a way out of the crisis in Ukriane, where more than 5,300 people have been killed since April last year.

(With AFP inputs)

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