European Union foreign ministers agreed at a July 22 meeting, five days since the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, to accelerate the preparation of sanctions against Russia over Ukraine – and to expand the list of individuals or entities to be targeted.
The ministers were following up a mandate from the special European Council meeting on July 16, when EU leaders said that they “regretted” that the steps it had asked Russia to take on June 27 had not been adequately taken and a result, they said they would expand restrictive measures “with a view to targeting entities, including from the Russian Federation, that are materially or financially supporting actions undermining or threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence”.
The day after the European Council meeting, MH17 was downed over eastern Ukraine, leaving 298 people dead – about two-thirds of them Dutch, and including people from other EU countries.
The United States and other Western countries have pointed the finger at pro-Russian forces in the area for what many believe to have been an anti-aircraft missile strike that brought down the aircraft.
Frans Timmermans, foreign minister of the Netherlands, was quoted by the BBC as telling reporters on July 22 that “unanimous” and “forceful” decisions had been taken on enhanced sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict.
A formal statement after the EU foreign ministers meeting said that they had agreed to accelerate the preparation of targeted measures agreed at the special meeting of the European Council on July 16, “in particular to establish immediately a list of entities and persons, including from the Russian Federation, to be listed under the enhanced criteria adopted by the Council on July 18, then to expand the restrictive measures with a view to targeting individuals or entities who actively provide material or financial support to or are benefiting from the Russian decision makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of Eastern-Ukraine, and to adopt additional measures to restrict trade with and investment in Crimea and Sevastopol, at the latest by the end of July”.
However, the ministers stopped short of going over to “phase three sanctions” that could do serious damage to the economy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
The statement after the July 22 meeting said that the EU and its member states were “shocked and deeply saddened” by the downing of the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in Donetsk, Ukraine and the tragic loss of so many innocent lives.
The EU welcomed the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council resolution of July 21 2014 “and looks forward to its full implementation”, the statement said.
That resolution condemned the downing of the Malaysian passenger jet, and demanded that pro-Russian separatists controlling the crash site allow investigators unrestricted accesss to the area.
The statement by the EU foreign ministers said that the EU calls on the separatist groups in the area to ensure “full, immediate, safe and secure” access to the site and surrounding area, including a viable security corridor, in order to proceed with victim identification as well as to recover remains and possessions of those deceased in the downing and provide for swift, professional and dignified repatriation of the victims.
“The EU expects all those in the area to preserve the crash site intact, including by refraining from destroying, moving, or disturbing remains, wreckage, equipment, debris or personal belongings.”
The ministers said that the EU supports the call by the UNSC and OSCE Permanent Council for a full, transparent and independent international investigation in accordance with the international civil aviation guidelines, in co-ordination with the ICAO, including with participation of technical and forensic experts from the Ukrainian, Malaysian, and Dutch governments as well as other technical and forensic experts.
“All relevant materials recovered from the site should be made available to the international investigation immediately and without interference.”
The EU emphasised that those “directly and indirectly responsible” for the downing must be
held accountable and brought to justice and called on “all states and parties” to fully co-operate to this end.
The foreign ministers called on Russia to actively use its influence over the illegally armed groups in order to achieve full, immediate, safe and secure access to the site, full co-operation with the work on recovering remains and possessions and full co-operation with the independent investigation, including unhindered access to the site of the downing for as long as needed for the investigation and possible follow up investigations.
“The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, already present in Eastern Ukraine, must be allowed to play its full role in facilitating and safe-guarding the access.”
The EU foreign ministers urged Russia to stop the increasing flow of weapons, equipment and militants across the border in order to achieve rapid and tangible results in de-escalation.
“The Council further urges Russia to withdraw its additional troops from the border area.”
The ministers, citing the previous commitment by EU leaders, said that they remained ready to introduce “without” delay a package of further significant restrictive measures, if full and immediate cooperation on above mentioned demands fails to materialise.
“To this end, the Council requests the Commission and the EEAS (European External Action Service) to finalise their preparatory work on possible targeted measures and to present proposals for taking action, including on access to capital markets, defence, dual use goods, and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector.”
The results of this work will be presented on July 24, the EU foreign ministers said.
(Photo: Council of the European Union)