Donald Tusk has refused any possibility of “appeasement” with Russia saying that “appeasement only encourages the aggressor to greater acts of violence”. His reaction comes in the aftermath of renewed violence in Mariupol in eastern Ukraine during the weekend (24-25 January) and in the wake of some EU voices calling for the removal or at least relaxation of sanctions against the Kremlin. Mr Tusk’s Twitter post criticized the recent EU talk on relaxing sanctions and fiercely condemned Russian President Putin’s alleged support of the pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine by stressing that it was “time to step up our policy based on cold facts, not illusions”. In response to the Saturday bloodshed in Mariupol, EU foreign policy boss, Federica Mogherini, has convened an extraordinary emergency meeting on the situation in Ukraine to take place on Thursday (29 January).
Last week, Mrs Mogherini was criticized by “EU hawks on Russia” for her draft paper on the ways how to improve the relations with Moscow. Yet, following the recent events she said that violence “would inevitably lead to a further grave deterioration of relations between the EU and Russia”. Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, one of the EU hawks, tweeted blunt comments on Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine: “Separatists attack on Mariupol breached Minsk agreements. Russia fully responsible to stop them, if not more isolation & sanctions to come”.
Despite the continuing violence and strong stance on Russia of some EU countries, the block of 28 Member States remains divided over the sanctions. Although Mr Tusk is himself among the hawks, his role is partly to navigate the debate and the decisions on Russia. When he was asked whether he likened the present behavior of Russia to that of Nazi Germany, his spokesperson explained that Mr Tusk’s tweet was a reaction to the latest escalation of fighting, which “regrettably shows that our policy has still not been effective in reaching its goal, i.e. a peaceful, political solution.