Ukraine crisis: EU 'must act on Russia aggression'

 

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: "We are very close to the point of no return"

EU leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, threatening to impose fresh sanctions against Russia.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton accused Russia of "direct aggression" in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his country was "close to a point of no return - full scale-war".

Russia denies that its forces are backing rebels, who have been gaining ground on Ukrainian forces.

Baroness Ashton said there was "deep concern" over "direct aggression by Russian forces". She called on Russia to stop the flow of arms, equipment and personnel into Ukraine.

As she arrived at the talks in Brussels, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Russia was "practically in a war against Europe".

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite says Russia is "practically in a war against Europe"

She said: "We need to support Ukraine, and send military materials to help Ukraine defend itself. Today Ukraine is fighting a war on behalf of all Europe."

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the EU faced "a completely unacceptable situation of having Russian troops on Ukrainian soil. Consequences must follow if that situation continues".

Ukrainian servicemen in the Donetsk region, on 29 August 2014. The Ukrainian army has been fighting pro-Russian separatists for months
Supporters of Pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, 18 August 2014 Pro-Russian rebels have mounted a counter-offensive in recent days

French President Francois Hollande said the Ukraine crisis was the biggest since the end of the Cold War.

He said: "What's happening in Ukraine is so serious that the European Council will be obliged to react by increasing the level of sanctions if things remain as they are."

The EU and the US have already imposed sanctions against dozens of senior Russian officials, separatist commanders and Russian firms accused of undermining Ukrainian sovereignty.

However, the BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels says there are still divisions within the EU on how to deal with the Ukraine situation.

Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said the "jury is still out" on whether sanctions had worked, adding: "We need to find a ceasefire, a peace plan."

Petro Poroshenko meets David Cameron in Brussels ahead of the summit Petro Poroshenko meets David Cameron in Brussels ahead of the summit

Mr Poroshenko, who is at the summit, said Ukraine was a victim of "military aggression and terror" involving "thousands of foreign troops and hundreds of foreign tanks".

He said that new EU sanctions against Russia would be prepared and would be implemented depending on the success of his peace plan.

He said he hoped to publish a draft of the peace plan next week.

Mr Poroshenko also said that he would discuss the possibility of a ceasefire at a meeting in Belarus on Monday of the Contact Group, which includes Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

'Ordered to retreat'

Government forces have lost ground in recent fighting.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said on Saturday that Russian tanks had attacked the town of Novosvitlivka near Luhansk and "destroyed virtually every house".

Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said troops had been ordered to retreat from Novosvitlivka.

Troops are also reportedly trying to evacuate Ilovaisk in the Donetsk region. It has been surrounded by rebels.

Cars queue to leave Mariupol, from where Yuri Vendik reports

Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko told the Russian News Service radio station a new offensive was being planned to create a corridor between Donetsk and Luhansk.

In south-eastern Ukraine, people have been leaving the port city of Mariupol, after advancing rebels captured Novoazovsk to the east.

Western and Ukrainian officials say this offensive has been substantially helped by Russian regular troops, opening a new front. Russia denies the accusation.

Some 2,600 people have died in fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions since April.

The conflict erupted following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula a month before.

Grey line
War in eastern Ukraine: The human cost
  • At least 2,593 people killed since mid-April (not including 298 passengers and crew of Malaysian Airlines MH17, shot down in the area) - UN report on 29 August
  • 951 civilians killed in Donetsk region alone, official regional authorities said - 20 August
  • In some particularly dangerous places, such as Luhansk region, victims are said to have been buried informally, making accurate counts difficult
  • Rebels (and some military sources) accuse the government of concealing true numbers
  • 155,800 people have fled elsewhere in Ukraine while at least 188,000 have gone to Russia
Grey line
Ukraine map
 

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  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 1063.

    Sanctions may not be a real deterrent to Russian intervention. Provision of direct military support to Ukraine would escalate tensions. Leaving Ukraine to solve its own problems may lead to destructive civil war.

    Ukraine borders clearly don't reflect common ethnic or economic factors. We may need to be pragmatic and work with rather than against Russia to find a solution.

  • rate this
    -17

    Comment number 1030.

    The only mistake Russia made was that it didn't annexe the whole of Ukraine when it tool over Crimea. Instead of dithering and counter claiming on none interference in the civil war it should have bared it teeth and show it junior partner it would not tolerate insubordination. The West only fear and respect a decisively strong country. Instead Putin here is almost Obama like.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 1020.

    The weakness of democracy is that it takes ages to get decisions, whilst a dictator like Putin speaks and everybody agrees because they have no option. What we do know is that Putin is afraid of sanctions otherwise he would have taken Donbass already. I believe the sanctions should be sharply stepped up even if it has costs on the West. The border also needs to be secured with help from the West.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 807.

    773. questor
    I feel for the ordinary people caught up in all this, people who just want to get on with their lives, when is our stupid species going to stop behaving like war mongers and earn the right to use the name Homo Sapiens. Come on leaders grow up!

    The most sensible comment that I have read in a long time. All wars are about more power for the power hungry.

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 724.

    EU countries including Britain have a simple choice.
    They can help Ukrainian government with money and equipment so that Ukrainians soldiers could stop the aggressor sometimes at the expense of their lives.
    Or they can do nothing and in several years the British soldiers will have to give their lives while trying to protect the UK from an invasion.

 

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