While fighting is intensifying in Ukraine, the special meeting of the European Council condemned on Thursday evening in the strongest possible terms Russia's military aggression against Ukraine and agreed on further sanctions against Russia.
By its illegal military actions, Russia is grossly violating international law and undermining European and global security and stability, the Council says in its conclusions and underlined the right of Ukraine to choose its own destiny.
“Today we see the devastating reality of full-scale war in Europe,” European Council President Charles Michel stated. “Russia alone is to blame. It will pay a heavy price.” Simultaneously, US President Biden also announced new sanctions. “Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences.”
EU sanctions on five pillars
As already reported, the new package of EU sanctions is expected to have massive and severe consequences for Russia. At a press conference early Friday morning, European President Ursula von der Leyen said that the sanctions will have maximum impact on the Russian economy and its political elite.
The package of sanctions is built on five pillars: The first is the financial sector; second, the energy sector; the third is the transport sector; fourth are export controls and the ban of export financing; and finally, visa policy.
“We are now targeting 70% of the Russian banking market, but also key state-owned companies, including the field of defence. These sanctions will increase Russia's borrowing costs, raise inflation and gradually erode Russia's industrial base.”
“We are also targeting the Russian elite by curbing their deposits so that they cannot hide their money anymore in safe havens in Europe.”
The second main pillar targets the energy sector. “Our export ban will hit the oil by making it impossible for Russia to upgrade its oil refineries, which gave actually Russia export revenues of €24 billion in 2019.”
The EU will also ban the sale of all aircraft, spare parts and equipment to Russian airlines. Three-quarters of Russia's current commercial air fleet was built in the European Union, the US and Canada. “This will degrade the key sector of Russia's economy and the country's connectivity.”
The fourth point is about limiting Russia's access to crucial technology. “We will hit Russia's access to important technologies it needs to build a prosperous future.”
The fifth point concerns visa policy. Diplomats, related groups and business people will no longer have privileged access to the EU.
Fighting intensifies in Ukraine
While the European Council met in Brussels, explosions were reported in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. Russian airborne forces captured on Thursday an airport close Kyiv and threatens the capital. Ukrainian forces are reported to offer strong resistance against advancing Russian troops.
“Horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. "Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany. Ukraine defeated that evil and will defeat this one. Stop Putin. Isolate Russia. Sever all ties. Kick Russia out of everywhere."
He was indirectly referring to the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, named after the foreign ministers of Nazi Germany and Soviet Union, which divided Eastern Europe and led to the outbreak of the second world war in 1939. Stalin totally miscalculated Nazi Germany's intentions and was taken by surprise when Germany attacked an unprepared Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.
The country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a video address released after midnight that Russian saboteurs had entered Kyiv and that he was “target No. 1” for Russian forces, followed by his family. Zelensky, a former comedian of Jewish origin who won landslide victory in free elections 2019, has risen to the challenge in defending Ukraine against Russia and appealing to the EU and the US for solidarity, support and security guarantees.
The first casualty of war is truth. In its disinformation campaign, Russia has claimed that “genocide” is committed in the two pro-Russian breakaway regions, that Ukraine poses a military threat to Russia and that Ukraine is ruled by neo-Nazis and antisemites.
The Brussels Times