Ursula von der Leyen throws down gauntlet to Putin: EU ready for 'unprecedented measures'

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Speaking to MEPs in the European Parliament, the EU Commission leader said the bloc was ready to respond to further threats posed by Russia against Ukraine. Calling on Vladimir Putin to respect international commitments, she said: “We have made it very clear: further aggressive acts against Ukraine will have massive costs for Russia.

“In June the European Council has tasked us to come up with options and since then we have been working on this in close cooperation with the United States and other partners.

“We are prepared.

“There’s a whole set of economic sanctions in place, targeting the financial and energy sectors, towards goods and defence.

“A response to any further aggression may take the form of a robust scaling up of these existing sanctions and of course we are ready to take additional and unprecedented measures with serious consequences for Russia.

“But above all, I call on Russia to de-escalate, to pursue diplomatic channels and to abide by its international commitment.

“Conflict must be solved peacefully.”

The EU chief also said that Russia’s squeezing of Moldova’s gas supplies is a “blatant attempt” by Moscow to intimidate Moldova’s reformist government.

She added that the European Union wanted good relations with Russia, but this depended first and foremost on Russia’s behaviour, referring initially to its military build-up on Ukraine’s border.

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She said: “We also see the blatant attempt to intimidate Moldova’s reformist government by squeezing them on gas-supplies at a time of high energy prices.

“We must protect our societies and democracies from this kind of cynical geopolitical power play.”

Ukraine accuses Russia of massing around 100,000 troops in preparation for a possible military offensive, raising fears that a simmering conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region could erupt into open war between the neighbours.

On Tuesday, new German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Russia would face “massive consequences” if it invades Ukraine, after a phone call with her Russian counterpart in which she said Kyiv’s territory integrity must not be violated.

Ms Baerbock called for “open and honest” dialogue with Russia over the Ukraine crisis during her exchange with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the German Foreign Ministry said.

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The phone call was the first publicly announced contact between Berlin and Moscow since Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government took office last week.

Ms Baerbock’s ministry wrote on Twitter after the call: “We want honest and open dialogue.

“The territorial integrity of Ukraine must not be violated.”

In a subsequent joint press conference in Stockholm where she met her Swedish and Norwegian counterparts, Baerbock said: “Any form of intervention in the sovereignty of Ukraine would have massive consequences for the Russian regime – of an economic and diplomatic nature.”

The German Foreign Ministry also called for progress to be made in the so-called Normandy talks on resolving the Ukraine crisis and said visa-free travel for young Russians had also come up in the call, as well as cooperation on hydrogen.



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