The European Union is planning to sanction Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the country’s Internet Research Agency, diplomats said, part of the first wave of measures that governments in Washington, Brussels and London say will be a coordinated package of fuller sanctions should Russia escalate military tensions in Ukraine.
The EU sanctions listings, which are set to take force later Wednesday, and separate measures announced by the U.S. and the U.K. on Tuesday came in response to Russia’s recognition this week of two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and the deployment of Russian forces into the area.
The sanctions rolled out so far in the three capitals are being described by officials as a first installment of measures aimed at both punishing Russia and curtailing President Vladimir Putin’s further ambitions in Ukraine. They are significantly narrower than what European and American officials have spent weeks crafting to punish Mr. Putin should he invade Ukraine. Those broader measures have at times included options such as cutting Russia off from the global banking system and restricting the export of certain technology.
The narrower measures are the result of what officials say is a coordinated, calibrated approach to persuading Mr. Putin not to advance further into Ukraine. Instead of a full-blown invasion, as the West had warned was likely and imminent, Moscow’s military moves so far have been more limited.
Broader measures signaled by Washington, Brussels and London—including the tech transfer ban and specific sanctions aimed at Mr. Putin’s movements—are still lined up, officials said. But officials are also debating among themselves the pace and scale of additional actions.
A key calculation among officials on both sides of the Atlantic is how hard to hit if Russia occupies parts of eastern Ukraine beyond the separatist-held areas and to what extent to maintain some deterrence in case Moscow moves to take the rest of the country, including the capital, Kyiv. In discussions this week, EU member states such as Italy, Cyprus and Germany favor a more gradual approach, diplomats said. France, Poland and the Baltic states are more eager to ensure Russia’s next move is met with sweeping sanctions. [Continue reading…]
Europe could heat its citizens’ homes and power its industry on existing gas reserves for the remaining months of a relatively mild winter even if the standoff with Moscow over Ukraine were to escalate to a total stop on Russian gas imports, a leading German economic institute has said.
Unusually low gas reserves have raised alarm among several European governments in recent months, with storage tanks across the continent on average at only 31% capacity at the start of this week – roughly half as full as in 2020.
In Germany, reserves have been particularly low in storage tanks run by the Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom, seemingly highlighting the country’s restricted room for meaningful sanctions in the case of an escalating conflict on the Ukrainian border. [Continue reading…]