European MEPs say sanctions against Russia must stay

EU sanctions against Russia should stay in place until it changes its aggressive policy in Ukraine, respects the ceasefire, withdraws its troops and stops supporting separatists, says the European Parliament in a resolution voted on Thursday. MEPs condemned “acts of terrorism” in Ukraine and urged the EU to come up with a plan to counter the Russian “information war” and help Ukraine to carry out reforms, cope with its humanitarian and health emergency and enhance its defence capabilities.

MEPs strongly condemn Russia’s “aggressive and expansionist policy” and “the acts of terrorism and criminal behaviour committed by the separatists and other irregular forces in Eastern Ukraine”.

The resolution urges the EU Council, at its March 2015 meeting, to maintain current EU sanctions against Russia and approve “benchmarks” for lifting them. The proposed benchmarks include respecting the ceasefire, unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops and illegal armed groups, exchanging all prisoners and restoring Ukraine’s control over its whole territory, including Crimea.

In the event of further Russian actions destabilising Ukraine, the Council should broaden the range of sanctions to include the nuclear sector and international financial transactions.

Confronting Russia’s Propaganda Offensive

The resolution calls on the EU to pay close attention to the aggressive “information war” pursued by Russia and asks the European Commission to introduce a communication strategy to counter the dangerous Russian propaganda campaign directed at the EU, its eastern neighbours and Russia itself.

Assistance to Ukraine including, advisers, humanitarian and military assistance

The strongly worded resolution calls on the EU to provide “more substantial technical assistance”, including deployment of advisers, to assist with the implementation of reforms. The MEPs also reminded that the Council lifted the arms embargo on Ukraine on 16 July, and that there are “no objections” to EU countries supplying defensive arms to Ukraine.  They go on to suggest that the EU should consider helping Ukraine enhance its defensive capabilities.

The resolution calls on EU to help with the refugee crisis caused by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, citing the plight of internally displaced persons and the worsening medical situation in eastern Ukraine “with hospitals not fully functioning and a shortage of medicines and vaccines”.

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