AM 720 KDWN
News, Traffic, Weather

EU sets Russia ultimatum, threatens sanctions

KDWN

BRUSSELS (AP) — Despite tough rhetoric decrying Russia’s increasing military involvement in Ukraine, European Union leaders on Sunday stopped short of imposing new sanctions against Moscow right away.

Instead, the 28-nation bloc’s heads of state and government tasked their executive body to “urgently undertake preparatory work” for tougher economic sanctions, according to summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy.

The sanctions will depend on the evolution of the situation on the ground but “everybody is fully aware that we have to act quickly,” he added. The preparatory work will start Monday, he added.

The fighting between the military and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has so far claimed 2,600 lives, according to U.N. figures. NATO said this week that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine, which Russia denies. Another 20,000 Russian troops are amassed just across Ukraine’s eastern border, NATO says.

The U.S. and the EU have so far imposed sanctions against dozens of Russian officials, several companies as well as the country’s financial and arms industry. Moscow has retaliated by banning food imports.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the new sanctions would target the same sectors as previous punitive measures, which also included an export ban for some high technology and oil exploration equipment.

Several European leaders had called for additional sanctions at the outset of the meeting in Brussels, but the fear of an economic backlash apparently prevailed and led the bloc to grant Russia another chance at avoiding tougher action. New sanctions would have required unanimity among the leaders.

Russia is the EU’s No. 3 trading partner and one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers. The EU, in turn, is Russia’s biggest commercial partner, making any sanctions more biting than similar measures adopted by the U.S.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who briefed the leaders at the beginning of their talks, said a strong response was needed to the “military aggression and terror” facing his country.

“Thousands of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine,” Poroshenko told reporters in English. “There is a very high risk not only for peace and stability for Ukraine, but for the whole … of Europe.”

Conceding ground in the face of a reinvigorated rebel offensive, Ukraine said Saturday that it was abandoning a city where its forces have been surrounded by rebels for days. Government forces were also pulling back from another it had claimed to have taken control of two weeks earlier.

The statements by Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the national security council, indicate that Ukrainian forces face increasingly strong resistance from Russian-backed separatist rebels just weeks after racking up significant gains and forcing rebels out of much of the territory they had held.

The office of the Donetsk mayor reported in a statement that at least two people died in an artillery attack on one of Donetsk’s neighborhoods. Shelling was reported elsewhere in the city, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

Poroshenko told reporters he believed efforts to halt the violence in eastern Ukraine were “very close to a point of no return,” warning that failure could lead to a “full-scale war.”

European leaders also issued dire warnings, reflecting their concern over the most recent military escalation with the opening of a new front by the Russian-backed rebels in southeastern Ukraine.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Russia’s meddling in Ukraine, which seeks closer ties with the EU, amounts to a direct confrontation that requires stronger sanctions.

“Russia is practically in the war against Europe,” she said in English.

Grybauskaite said the EU should impose a full arms embargo, including the canceling of already agreed contracts, but France has so far staunchly opposed that proposal because it has a $1.6 billion contract to build Mistral helicopter carriers for Russia.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also warned that Europe shouldn’t be complacent about Russian troops on Ukrainian soil.

“Countries in Europe shouldn’t have to think long before realizing just how unacceptable that is,” he said. “We know that from our history. So consequences must follow.”

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said “sanctions are not an end in themselves,” but a means to dissuade Russia from further destabilizing Ukraine.

Moscow, meanwhile, is preparing to send a second convoy of humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Moscow has already received Kiev’s preliminary approval and insisted that it would send aid in coordination with the Red Cross. Lavrov wouldn’t say when the aid is likely to be sent, but said it could happen next week.

Russian state Rossiya 24 on Saturday showed trucks from the previous convoy at the border being loaded with humanitarian aid that was brought to the area by train. It was unclear when the new convoy could start moving.

Barroso said that the EU – a bloc encompassing 500 million people and stretching from Lisbon to the border with Ukraine – stands ready to grant Kiev further humanitarian aid and financial assistance if needed. The bloc will also organize a donors’ conference to help rebuild the country’s east at the end of the year, he added.

Ukrainian forces had been surrounded by rebels in the town of Ilovaysk, about 20 kilometers (15 miles) east of the largest rebel-held city of Donetsk for days.

“We are surrendering this city,” Ukraine’s Lysenko told reporters. “Our task now is to evacuate our military with the least possible losses in order to regroup.”

Lysenko said that regular units of the military had been ordered to retreat from Novosvitlivka and Khryashchuvate, two towns on the main road between the Russian border and Luhansk, the second-largest rebel-held city. Ukraine had claimed control of Novosvitlivka earlier in August.

Separately, Ukrainian forces said one of their Su-25 fighter jets was shot down Friday over eastern Ukraine by a missile from a Russian missile launcher. The pilot ejected and was uninjured, the military said in a brief statement.

Jim Heintz reported from Kiev. Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed reporting.

Follow Juergen Baetz on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jbaetz

EU sets Russia ultimatum, threatens sanctions

KDWN

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is giving Russia a one-week ultimatum to scale back its intervention in Ukraine or face additional economic sanctions.

EU summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy said early Sunday that the bloc’s 28 leaders tasked its executive body to “urgently undertake preparatory work for consideration within a week.”

He says “everybody is fully aware that we have to act quickly.”

Still, in apparent fear of an economic backlash, EU leaders shied away from immediately imposing tougher sanctions. Russia is the EU’s No. 3 trading partner and one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers.

The fighting between the military and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has claimed 2,600 lives, according to U.N. figures. NATO estimates at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine. Russia denies that.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

The European Union on Saturday warned that the apparent incursion of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil pushes the conflict closer to a point of no return, with new economic sanctions being drawn up to make Moscow reconsider its position.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who briefed a summit of the 28-nation EU’s leaders in Brussels, said a strong response was needed to the “military aggression and terror” facing his country.

“Thousands of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine,” Poroshenko told reporters in English. “There is a very high risk not only for peace and stability for Ukraine, but for the whole … of Europe.”

French President Francois Hollande and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said at the summit in Brussels the leaders will make a political decision and then ask the EU’s executive arm to finalize the fine print of new sanctions.

However, because several EU nations fear the fallout of sanctions on their own economies, it wasn’t immediately clear whether the required unanimity would be reached for immediate punitive measures, or whether the leaders would set Russia another ultimatum.

But Lithuanian leader Dalia Grybauskaite insisted Russia’s meddling in Ukraine, which seeks closer ties with the EU, amounts to a direct confrontation that requires stronger sanctions.

“Russia is practically in the war against Europe,” she said in English.

NATO estimates that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine even though Russia denies any military involvement in the fighting that has so far claimed 2,600 lives, according to U.N. figures.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also warned that Europe can’t be complacent about Russian troops on Ukrainian soil.

“Countries in Europe shouldn’t have to think long before realizing just how unacceptable that is,” he said. “We know that from our history. So consequences must follow.”

Poroshenko told reporters that he believed efforts to halt the violence were “very close to a point of no return,” warning that failure could lead to a “full-scale war.”

Conceding ground in the face of a reinvigorated rebel offensive, Ukraine said Saturday that it was abandoning a city where its forces have been surrounded by rebels for days. Government forces were also pulling back from another it had claimed to have taken control of two weeks earlier.

The statements by Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the national security council, indicate that Ukrainian forces face increasingly strong resistance from Russian-backed separatist rebels just weeks after racking up significant gains and forcing rebels out of much of the territory they had held.

Poroshenko, meanwhile, said Ukraine would welcome an EU decision to help with military equipment and further intelligence-sharing.

The office of the Donetsk mayor reported in a statement that at least two people died in an artillery attack on one of Donetsk’s neighborhoods. Shelling was reported elsewhere in the city, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

In Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said “sanctions are not an end in themselves,” but a means to dissuade Russia from further destabilizing Ukraine.

“We may see a situation where we reach the point of no return,” Barroso warned. “If the escalation of the conflict continues, this point of no return can come.”

He provided no specifics about which sanctions the heads of state and government might adopt to inflict more economic pain to nudge Russia toward a political solution.

The U.S. and the EU have so far imposed sanctions against dozens of Russian officials, several companies and the country’s financial industry. Moscow has retaliated by banning food imports.

Grybauskaite said the EU should impose a full arms embargo, including the canceling of already agreed contracts. France has so far staunchly opposed that proposal because it has a $1.6 billion contract to build Mistral helicopter carriers for Russia.

The EU’s requirement for a unanimous agreement among the 28 nation has in the past blocked or softened decisions since some nations fear the economic fallout.

Russia is the EU’s No. 3 trading partner and one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers. The EU, in turn, is Russia’s biggest commercial partner, making any sanctions more biting than similar measures adopted by the U.S.

Moscow, meanwhile, is preparing to send a second convoy of humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Moscow has already received Kiev’s preliminary approval and insisted that it would send aid in coordination with the Red Cross. Lavrov wouldn’t say when the aid is likely to be sent, but said it could happen next week.

Russian state Rossiya 24 on Saturday showed trucks from the previous convoy at the border being loaded with humanitarian aid that was brought to the area by train. It was unclear when the new convoy could start moving.

Barroso said that the EU – a bloc encompassing 500 million people and stretching from Lisbon to the border with Ukraine – stands ready to grant Kiev further humanitarian aid and financial assistance if needed. The bloc will also organize a donors’ conference to help rebuild the country’s east at the end of the year, he added.

Ukrainian forces had been surrounded by rebels in the town of Ilovaysk, about 20 kilometers (15 miles) east of the largest rebel-held city of Donetsk for days.

“We are surrendering this city,” Ukraine’s Lysenko told reporters. “Our task now is to evacuate our military with the least possible losses in order to regroup.”

Lysenko said that regular units of the military had been ordered to retreat from Novosvitlivka and Khryashchuvate, two towns on the main road between the Russian border and Luhansk, the second-largest rebel-held city. Ukraine had claimed control of Novosvitlivka earlier in August.

Separately, Ukrainian forces said one of their Su-25 fighter jets was shot down Friday over eastern Ukraine by a missile from a Russian missile launcher. The pilot ejected and was uninjured, the military said in a brief statement.

Jim Heintz reported from Kiev. Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed reporting.

Follow Juergen Baetz on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jbaetz