The EU will not impose sanctions on Russia just yet, the bloc's foreign policy chief said on Monday, rebuffing a call from Kyiv to take such steps now to avert a war rather than wait until after any possible Russian invasion.
Western countries fear a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine in recent weeks is a prelude to an invasion, which Moscow denies. The United States and European allies have said any attack would trigger "massive" sanctions against Moscow, but Kyiv wants sanctions now.
Make a Decision Now: Ukraine
"We expect decisions," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in Brussels before addressing a regularly scheduled meeting of EU foreign ministers.
"We believe that there are good and legitimate reasons to impose at least some of the sanctions now to demonstrate that the European Union is not only talking the talk about sanctions, but is also walking the walk."
The EU ministers backed plans announced last month for a 1.2 billion euro financial aid loan package for Ukraine, and also agreed in principle to a long-standing Ukrainian request for a small-scale mission of military instructors to help train officers.
But the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, as well as some of the assembled foreign ministers, made clear the bloc did not plan to impose sanctions on Russia yet. Borrell told reporters he would convene an extraordinary EU meeting to agree sanctions only "when the moment comes."
For now, the EU supports the latest attempts to arrange further talks, Borrell said, after France said U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed in principle to a summit over Ukraine.
"Summit meetings, at the level of leaders, at the level of ministers, whatever format, whatever way of talking and sitting at the table and trying to avoid a war, are badly needed," said Borrell.
Military Education, Financial Aid
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney also said the bloc should focus on facilitating more talks with Moscow.
"I think the way to prevent war is to talk and to find compromise and ways forward that can prevent invasion in the first place, which should be our priority now," he said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accused Russia of playing an "irresponsible" game with the civilian population of eastern Ukraine and urged it to return to the negotiating table.
Sporadic shelling across the line dividing Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east has intensified since Thursday, with Western countries saying they fear Moscow is trying to create a pretext to invade.
Kuleba, speaking after meeting his EU counterparts, welcomed the agreement to send military instructors, noting that they were not combat troops.
"The details, the parameters and the timeline of this rollout are still to be discussed. But this is critical we open that new phase in our relations," he said.
An EU diplomat said the mission would be limited in scope and would not happen very soon.
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