EU Won’t Slap More Sanctions on Russia over Skripal Case despite UK’s Calls, Report Says
The European Union likely will not respond positively to the UK’s call to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the attack with the Novichok nerve agent against the Skripal family in Salisbury in March 2018.
Earlier this week, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a speech in Washington, D.C., urged the EU to match the new sanctions the United States introduced against Russia over the Skripal case.
Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked with Novichok, a chemical weapon developed in the Soviet Union in the English city of Salisbury earlier this year. The Kremlin denies involvement.
In spite of the call by Britain, whose sanction policy depends on the EU as long as it is part of the Union and Brexit has not materialized, unnamed EU diplomats have told Reuters that more EU sanctions on Russia are unlikely.
In their words, the usual divisions between EU members who want tougher measures against Moscow, and those who want closer ties, would prevent sanctions over the Skripal incident, and the decision for sanctions necessitates unanimity among all 28 member states.
“There is no way. Italy and Austria, even France, want to do business with Russia too much,” one EU diplomat said.
The EU already has in place three sets of sanctions against Russia’s leadership because of its interference in Ukraine. Some of those were recently renewed.
Ukraine has been involved in a “cold’ conflict with Russia since 2014, after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in reaction to the Euromaidan Revolution in Kyiv, which ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West.
A pro-Russian insurgency possibly instigated and aided by Moscow followed shortly in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine and has been raging ever since.
While at the end of July 2018, the EU blacklisted six new Russian entities making them subject to asset freezes in the EU over the war in Ukraine, the cited diplomats revealed that eight entities were supposed to be sanctioned at first but two were dropped after protests by Germany and Italy whose governments were worried about their business ties with Russia.
“This discussion has shown there are clear limits of how far we can go on sanctions,” said another EU diplomat.
“This does not rule out adding a name or an entity to the blacklist here or there. But there is no scope for more broad sectoral measures,” the diplomat added.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out against the latest US sanctions on Moscow which weakened the ruble and led Russia’s Economy Minister to state he had lower economic growth expectations.
In spite of Hunt’s speech in Washington, the UK has not made a formal proposal for new EU sanctions against Russia yet.
After Hunt’s speech in Washington, EU officials said Britain had yet to make a formal proposal to the bloc.
That is likely to happen at the end of August as the foreign ministers of the 28 EU member states meet for talks in Austria, which has raised eyebrows after earlier this month Putin attended the wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.
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