EU to Prepare Possible New Sanctions on Russia Over Ukraine

Hammond Poroshenko
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (R) talks to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to their meeting in Kiev, March 5, 2015. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Mykola Lazarenko/Reuters

Britain's foreign minister said on Friday the European Union would prepare possible new sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine conflict that could be imposed quickly if the Minsk ceasefire agreement is broken.

Both Kiev and pro-Russia separatists have accused each other of violence since last month's peace deal that calls for heavy weapons to be withdrawn from the frontline in east Ukraine.

"The European Union will remain united on the question of sanctions, sanctions must remain in place until there is full compliance (with the Minsk agreement)," Philip Hammond said.

"We will prepare possible new sanctions, which could be imposed quickly if there is further Russian aggression or if the Minsk agreement is not complied with," he said.

Hammond also said Britain does not have immediate plans to supply Kiev with weapons, but it is "not ruling anything out for the future" as the situation in east Ukraine remains "dynamic".

At a joint conference with his British counterpart in Warsaw, Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said new sanctions could be imposed if, for example, separatists attack Ukraine's port city of Mariupol, but a move such as excluding Russia from the SWIFT payments system was an extreme option.

"(Exclusion) from SWIFT is the 'nuclear' option, this is an extreme option and there is a long list of sanctions that may be used before that," he said. "Also, the truth is that it is a 'double-edged sword'."

Some 6,000 people have been killed in fighting since separatists took up arms last year in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland in response to the overthrow of Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich.

The conflict has sent ties between Russia and the West to Cold War-era lows as Kiev, along with the United States and the European Union, say they have evidence that Moscow is arming the rebels and boosting their ranks with Russian soldiers.

Russia has repeatedly denied this and says the United States is pushing Kiev's pro-Western government into war with its own people.