For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on February 27, announcing another round of sanctions on Putin’s Russia for its unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
“This is a watershed moment,” Von der Leyen said, also announcing that the EU was shutting its air space to Russian aircraft and banning the Kremlin’s media machine from broadcasting in the bloc.
The shutting of all of the EU’s air space to Russian aircraft followed two days in which several individual EU countries, including Bulgaria, earlier made such announcements.
Von der Leyen said: “We are strengthening once more our sanctions against the Kremlin and its collaborator, Lukashenko’s regime”.
“We are proposing a prohibition on all Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft,” Von der Leyen said, ahead of an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers called by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
“These aircraft will no more be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU.
“This will apply to any plane owned, chartered or otherwise controlled by a Russian legal or natural person,” Von der Leyen said.
“Our airspace will be closed to every Russian plane – and that includes the private jets of oligarchs.”
Von der Leyen said: “The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our Union.
“So we are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe.”
She said that Lukashenko’s regime is complicit in this vicious attack against Ukraine.
“So we will hit Lukashenko’s regime with a new package of sanctions.
“We will introduce restrictive measures against their most important sectors.
This will stop their exports of products from mineral fuels to tobacco, wood and timber, cement, iron and steel,” Von der Leyen said.
“We will also extend to Belarus the export restrictions we introduced on dual-use goods for Russia.”
This will also avoid any risks of circumvention of EU measures against Russia, she said.
“In addition, we will sanction those Belarusians helping the Russian war effort.”
These measures come on top of the package announced on February 26, agreed by the EU’s international partners, Von der Leyen said.
Under this package, important Russian banks will be excluded from the SWIFT system.
“We will also ban the transactions of Russia’s central bank and freeze all its assets, to prevent it from financing Putin’s war.
“And we will target the assets of Russian oligarchs.”
Von der Leyen said that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s “leadership and his bravery and the resilience of the Ukrainian people are outstanding and impressive”.
“They are an inspiration to us all.
“We welcome with open arms those Ukrainians who have to flee from Putin’s bombs and I am proud of the warm welcome that Europeans have given them.
“We are mobilising every effort and every euro to support our Eastern member states – to host and take care of these refugees,” Von der Leyen said.
(Photo: EC Audiovisual Service)
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