At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said leaders of the 28-nation bloc would consider imposing additional sanctions on Russia if the situation deteriorates in Ukraine. The EU's heads of government are slated to meet later this week for a summit.
"There is an opportunity now for everybody in eastern Ukraine if they support the plan put forward by President Poroshenko," said Hague. "And in the absence of that, the European Union will be able to take further measures, further sanctions on Russia. Those measures are ready...so we now look to Russia to support the peace plan."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko last week announced a week-long unilateral cease-fire and a plan for broader peace in the region after the country launched an offensive against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine. Though the move was welcomed by Russia, separatists have yet to acknowledge the cease-fire.
"With regard to an end to separatist violence and to the border that still isn't secured, we expect more than just words," said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert. "We expect clear positions and actions by the Russian side."
European leaders blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for letting the fighting continue in Ukraine as well as increasing the Russian army's presence in the Central Military District, which doesn't share a border with Ukraine. Leaders asked Putin to give the peace deal a chance and ask fighters to step down.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said that despite assurances from Russia to cooperate with Kiev, they were moving troops to the Ukrainian border.
"We do see, unfortunately, it's not happening on the ground," said Linkevicius.
Linkevicius did say that additional sanctions would be used as a "last resort...but it shouldn't be off the table, definitely."
The EU so far has issued travel bans and the freezing of assets of 61 people in connection with the Ukraine crisis, but has refrained from imposing broader sanctions on trade with Russia. While the EU foreign ministers did not take any steps ahead of Friday's meeting they are expected to announce a formal operation to assist and train the Ukrainian police and judiciary.
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