EU mulls tougher sanctions on Russia as Donbass rebels advance

By bne IntelliNews October 3, 2014

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The EU is considering expanding sanctions against Russia if rebels in Eastern Ukraine move to capture Donetsk airport or the port city of Mariupol.

Bloomberg cited a source close to the German government on October 2 discussing the option of expanding sanctions against Russia if Donetsk airport or Mariupol were taken.  Kommersant sources in the EU said reports of stepping up sanctions were "speculative" but expansion of sanctions could not be excluded. 

"Restrictive measures against Russia are constantly being monitored and could be changed one way or the other in the light of new information on the situation in Eastern Ukraine," said EU foreign affairs spokesperson Maja Kocijancic.  According to Kocijancic,  EU foreign ministers will meet on October 20 and will discuss Ukraine.

The rebels are close to capturing Donetsk airport, with the rebels claiming to control 95% of the territory of the airport.   A spokesman for the defence ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) told Interfax on October 3 that "several buildings on the premises of the Donetsk airport are currently under our control. But it is too early to say that we are already controlling the entire airport”. However, The press centre of Ukraine's "anti-terrorist operation" in eastern Ukraine said on its Facebook page that the Ukrainian army was controlling the airport.

Rebel commanders appeared increasingly confident. Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the self-styled prime minister of the Donetsk People's Republic, said on October 2 that he doubts the sense of any further peace talks, such as those that led to the signing of a ceasefire agreement on September 5, according to Kommersant.

General Mykola Malomuzh, the former head of Ukraine's foreign intelligence service, told Espreso.TV that he believed Putin intends to use Donetsk airport as a Russian military base, and that Ukraine on no account should surrender the facility. However, Malomuzh said he believed that  rebel forces will seize the airport in the next few days. 

"Hundreds" of Russian soldiers remain on Ukrainian territory, Reuters reported Nato Spokesman Jay Janzen as saying on October 3.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe also approved a resolution on October  2 recognising the continued presence of Russian armed forces in Ukraine. “Russia is providing support to armed insurgents in eastern Ukraine, including direct military intervention in the conflict,” the document said, calling for Russia “to halt lending any military support to the insurgents, remove its armies from eastern Ukraine and its borders, as well as refraining from any actions that directly or indirectly exacerbate the situation in eastern Ukraine".”
The fight over Donetsk airport is making life in the city even more difficult. A shell struck the office of the Red Cross in Donetsk on October 2, killing an employee, according to newswires, as shelling hit the city centre. 

"It is easy to forget that Donetsk is/was a large vibrant, fairly modern city which was home to 1 million people. This all now has something of a ring to it of Sarajevo in the 90s, and that particular conflict went on for four years, with the international community looking on and doing very little to stop the violence," wrote Tim Ash of Standard Bank.




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