European leaders hold critical talks on Thursday about how to tighten the screws on Russia following its seizure of Crimea, how to support Ukraine’s stricken economy and how best to wean themselves off Russian oil and gas in years to come.
With President Vladimir Putin celebrating Crimea’s addition to the Russian Federation, and his officials mocking the EU’s response so far, leaders are expected add around a dozen names to the 21 Russians and Crimeans already placed on a travel-ban and asset-freeze list.
But while agreeing to expand the list to include figures closer to Putin will be one thing, it is a long way short of the financial and trade sanctions diplomats and analysts say are necessary to make Moscow pay attention.
Speaking ahead of the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a discussion of financial sanctions – what the EU is referring to as phase three of its response – would take place at the summit, but no agreement on it is expected.
“The (summit) will make clear that we are ready at any time to introduce phase-three measures if there is a worsening of the situation,” Merkel said in a speech to parliament.
Russian forces took control of the Black Sea peninsula in late February following protests that toppled Moscow-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich provoked by his decision to spurn a trade deal with the European Union last November and seek closer ties with Russia.