Merkel says no new Russian sanctions planned

By bne IntelliNews November 12, 2014

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Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU will not impose any new sanctions on Russia over its support for rebels in Ukraine, despite the crumbling of a ceasefire agreement in Ukraine's war-torn eastern Donbass region.

"We are unhappy that many points of the Minsk peace accords [that brought about a ceasefire in the Donbass conflict] are not being observed," Merkel said at a press conference in Berlin on November 11, as quoted by newswires. "Nevertheless, there are no plans for introducing further sanctions at the current time.  We are focusing on the approach of winter, the humanitarian situation in the region and the creation of a ceasefire regime."

Merkel said, however, that an extension of travel bans and asset freezes for individuals implicated in the situation in Ukraine, mostly leaders of the self-proclaimed rebel Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, was possible.

"Sanctions are not an aim in themselves, but an instrument," said Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy, apparently backing Merkel's position. 

Merkel spoke by phone to Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko early on November 12, according to the website of the Ukrainian president.  Poroshenko complained to Merkel that the Donbass rebels were not complying with the Minsk peaace agreements, and that there was no progress in Russian compliance with its commitments under the peace agreements. "Merkel pointed out that the Minsk agreements must be fully honoured by the sides. She also said that the Ukrainian situation would be a major item on the agenda of the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, on November 15-16," Poroshenko's press service said in the statement.

British prime minister David Cameron said on November 11 that the UK would support stronger sanctions if Russia continued to "destabilise" the situation in Ukraine.  

Speaking to an audience in London at the Lord Mayor's banquet, Cameron said "a military solution" to the Ukraine crisis was not an option, and that sanctions should be used to influence Russian behaviour. "If Russia continues on its current path, then we will keep upping the pressure and Russia's relationship with the rest of the world will be radically different in the future," Cameron said as quoted by Reuters. 

Indicative of how close to a full-scale conflict Ukraine's Donbass region remains, a mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported seeing a convoy of 43 unmarked green military trucks, towing 5 howitzer guns, and 5 multi-launch rocket systems, on November 11. 

"Four Ukrainian soldiers have sustained injuries caused by shelling (...). The [Ukrainian regular and irregular] antiterrorist operation forces are firing back upon the gunmen's fire emplacements and are eliminating the enemy personnel and hardware," Vladyslav Selezniov, a spokesman for Ukraine's so-called "anti-terrorist operation", said on Facebook, as quoted by Interfax.

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