Fri Feb 13, 2015 9:53AM
European powers have threatened fresh sanctions against Russia should a newly-signed ceasefire deal aimed at ending the crisis in eastern Ukraine fail to be implemented.
The European Union has not ruled out further sanctions on Russia if the new truce fails, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned during the bloc’s summit in Brussels on Thursday.
“If it works well we would be very happy to go with the agreement. If there are difficulties we wouldn’t rule out other sanctions,” she added.
French President Francois Hollande also echoed similar warnings, saying if the ceasefire deal was not respected, “we would return to a process… of sanctions that would be in addition to those already in place.”
EU president Donald Tusk also warned that the bloc is ready to take more punitive measures in addition to the sanctions it has already imposed on Russia.
“The debate (in Brussels) focused on how to support the implementation of the agreement – if it does not happen we will not hesitate to take the necessary steps,” the European Council chief told a press conference after a European Union summit on Friday.
Kiev and the West accuse Russia of supporting the armed militancy against the Ukrainian government. Moscow denies the charges, saying Kiev must stop suppression of ethnic Russian population in the area.
Russia has already been hit by several rounds of Western sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.
Deep divisions have emerged between EU members on the need for the adoption of more broad-spectrum sanctions on Moscow, with some member states saying such a decision may take its toll on the weaker economies in the EU.
Terms of ceasefire
During 17-hour talks in the Belarus capital city of Minsk, Merkel, Hollande, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko struck a deal that called for heavy weapons to be withdrawn from the frontlines of the conflict in east Ukraine within two weeks starting on February 17.
The ceasefire deal also consists of decentralization of political forces in Ukraine and Kiev’s control of the border shared with Russia by the end of 2015.
The deal also extended amnesty for prisoners involved in the fighting as well as the withdrawal of foreign fighters from the Ukrainian territory and the disarmament of illegal groups.
Putin first broke news of the ceasefire deal on Thursday, saying it would take effect at 2200 GMT on February 14, midnight Kiev time on February 15.
The ceasefire is intended to introduce a comprehensive political settlement of the crisis in Ukraine.
Some supporters of the pro-Russia forces expressed disappointment at the new deal, saying it represented a betrayal to the efforts on the ground and shortchanged the breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine.
Another main point of contention lies with the key transport hub of Debaltseve, where some 8,000 troops are currently surrounded by the pro-Russian rebels.
Putin has reportedly ordered military experts to look into how to organize a corridor for the surrounded Ukrainian troops to leave.
Meanwhile, Poroshenko said he expects difficulty implementing the ceasefire.
Russian sources said regular meetings have been scheduled to ensure the fulfillment of the agreements, which represents a breakthrough in a long-frustrated peace process.
The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations to silence protests there in mid-April 2014.
Violence intensified in May last year after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.
The fighting has reportedly left 5,500 people dead, and more than 12,900 others injured.