European Union leaders said on Friday they would continue to pressure Russia by designing a new round of “massive” sanctions to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine while bolstering military support for Kiev.
Speaking after a two-day EU summit outside Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said all options were on the table for a fourth crackdown package targeting Russia if President Vladimir Putin intensifies its war efforts.
If Putin “steps up the bombing, besieges Kiev and escalates the scenes of war, we know we will have to take massive sanctions again,” Macron said.
Since the start of the war last month, the EU has adopted tough measures targeting Putin, the Russian financial system and its demanding oligarchs. Earlier this week, countries in the bloc agreed to impose new sanctions on 160 people and added new restrictions on the export of maritime navigation and radio communication technology.
They also decided to exclude three Belarusian banks from SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions. In total, the EU restrictive measures now apply to a total of 862 people and 53 entities.
The EU’s chief executive, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said the arsenal of sanctions had already started to weigh on the Russian economy.
“You see the ruble is in free fall. It has lost more than 50% against the euro,” she said. “You see there are skyrocketing interest rates in Russia. You see runaway inflation. Rating agencies rate Russian bonds as junk right now.
In a statement released after the summit, von der Leyen said the fourth sanctions package would further isolate Russia “and deplete the resources it uses to finance this barbaric war.”
She said the EU would work closely with the Group of Seven countries to increase pressure against Moscow.
“We will deny Russia most favored nation status in our markets,” she said. “This will negate significant advantages Russia enjoys as a member of the WTO (World Trade Organization). savings.”
Von der Leyen added that Western allies will also aim to suspend Russia’s membership rights to major multilateral financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
“We will ensure that Russia cannot obtain funding, loans or any other benefit from these institutions,” she said.
Among the possible new measures against Russia and its ally Belarus, cutting all their banks from SWIFT is a discussed option. A full embargo on fossil fuel imports from Russia similar to that imposed by Washington could also be approved at some point, Macron warned.
“Nothing is forbidden, nothing is taboo,” he said. “We will do whatever we consider effective to stop Russia on this path of aggression.”
Efforts to agree on a boycott are complicated because some EU countries, including Germany and Italy, are much more dependent than others on Russia. Poland gets 67% of its oil from Russia, while Ireland gets only 5%.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has been deeply skeptical of Putin’s aim to reach a peace deal.
“To seek peace, you have to want it,” he said. “Today, he does not want it. The plan seems to be something else. I hope that as soon as possible a glimmer (of hope for peace) can be realized.
As for the sanctions, Draghi said those already imposed are “very heavy and have been adopted by all member countries without hesitation. They can get even heavier.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said threatening Russia with new sanctions should be used to secure a quick ceasefire.
“We have to apply high pressure and succeed,” he said.
To support Ukraine, Borrell said he was offering leaders an additional €500 million for the EU fund for military aid as Russia expands its military offensive. Russia struck for the first time near airports in the west of the country on Friday as troops kept up pressure on the capital, Kiev.
“I offered to double our contribution,” Borrell said. “That’s what we’re going to do. … And it will be done immediately.
The EU previously agreed to spend 450 million euros ($500 million) on military supplies for Ukrainian forces in an unprecedented step of collectively supplying arms to a country under attack. EU countries and NATO have ruled out the option of direct military intervention in Ukraine.
Raf Casert in Brussels and Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed to this story.
Follow AP coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine