Crimea Crisis: EU Imposes Limited Sanctions on Russia

Written by | Monday, March 17th, 2014

Following Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, the EU has announced today that, after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, it agreed to impose travel bans and asset freezes against 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine. The officials have announced that 97% of voters in Crimea backed breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia. The sanctions target a number of so-far unnamed individuals that are accused of having played a key role in the referendum, which the EU, US and Kiev consider illegal. Further measures were reportedly expected to be taken in the next few days.
As EU foreign ministers gathered in Brussels in an attempt to impose sanctions on Moscow, there were reports about a likely lack of unity among the European countries. For example, the Bulgarian foreign minister, Kristian Vigenin, was reportedly instructed by his ruling Socialist party “not to haste with harsh measures” against Russia following the Crimea referendum.  Bulgaria “should not be among the hawks in the European Union” towards Russia, said Bulgarian Socialist Party leader, Sergei Stanishev, who also serves as the president of the Party of European Socialists. “Besides the common position of the European countries, we have our national interests,” stressed Stanishev and further explained that “first, they reflect the fact that we have between 250 and 300 thousand ethnic Bulgarians in Ukraine. We are close geographically to the region. In case of destabilization we would be the first to suffer.”
The crisis follows the ousting of former Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych on 22 February, who had sparked months of street protests by rejecting to sign a planned EU trade deal, instead favoring closer ties with Moscow. While pro-Russian forces have been in control of Crimea since late February, Moscow has repeatedly denied reports that the troops are under its direct control. Russia’s earlier proposal to forma an international “contact group” to mediate the crisis and seek changes in the constitution that would require Ukraine to uphold military and political neutrality was quickly dismissed by Kiev as “absolutely unacceptable.”

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