EU must quickly take measures that hurt Russia, De Croo says

EU must quickly take measures that hurt Russia, De Croo says
Troops in Ukraine. Credit: Belga / Ukraine's Security Service

In light of Russia entering the east of Ukraine last night in violation of the country's territorial integrity, Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has said sanctions that hit Russia where it hurts should be imposed quickly.

On Tuesday morning, EU ambassadors met to discuss what measures can be taken in response to Russia signing an executive order on the recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states and the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending so-called "peacekeeping troops" to the region, escalating an ongoing conflict.

De Croo has said the bloc will respond appropriately to what has happened.

"What happened there is a very serious violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. We have to keep a cool head but show very clearly to Russia that this kind of thing leads to high costs for the country," he told Radio 1.

Various heads of state and political leaders have publically condemned Russia's recent actions, including European Council President Charles Michel and Belgium's Foreign Affairs Minister Sophie Wilmès.

De Croo emphasised that decisions need to be made quickly. "I cannot anticipate what these will be, as almost everything is on the table for this meeting, but measures must be taken that affect Russia where it hurts, of course," he said. This is in line with Belgium's stance on the matter. "Our line will be that it must be appropriate measures that can be implemented quickly." Meanwhile, Joe Biden, the President of the United States has signed an Executive Order to impose economic sanctions on the two regions, however, no sanctions have been imposed targeting the whole of Russia so far.

Providing military equipment

More than three weeks ago, Ukraine made an urgent request for military assistance and equipment to many Western countries, including Belgium. This included a request for helmets, bullet-proof vests and weapons. Belgium has not yet responded to this appeal. "All the questions we get are analysed by Defence, in consultation with other countries. Our reasoning is that we work as much as possible in a NATO context. That is our priority and that is what we continue to do now," De Croo said on the subject.

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The government has urged any Belgian nationals in Ukraine to leave the country. "Now, this is still possible in a safe way, but if there is further invasion, then it will be difficult to evacuate people," De Croo said. On Monday, Putin said in a public address that there was a possibility of a wide military campaign, however, he argues that the country has made and is making efforts to "resolve all matters peacefully." In a statement on Tuesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed the EU's solidarity with Ukraine and said that a package of sanctions will be formally tabled following a meeting of EU Foreign Affairs ministers later this afternoon.

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