(Update 2: changes headline, re-ledes with EU sanctions agreement)
Paris, Feb 22 (EFE).- European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday unanimously agreed on a fresh package of sanctions against Russia in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of two pro-Russian separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.
The sanctions will target 27 individuals and entities, as well as banks, who undermine Ukrainian integrity, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at a press conference in Paris.
“This package of sanctions that has been approved by unanimity by the member states will hurt Russia, and it will hurt a lot,” Borrell said, adding that the package is only one part of the bloc’s response.
Earlier Tuesday, Germany suspended the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline deal, while the United Kingdom drew up fresh sanctions.
“Against the background of the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the German government is halting the approval process for the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline until further notice,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a Berlin press conference.
“Without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot go into operation.”
The pipeline, which is operated by Russian energy giant Gazprom and has already been completed, will transport gas directly from Russia to the European Union via the Baltic Sea through German territory, bypassing Ukraine.
Scholz said that Putin’s recognition of the self-proclaimed people’s republics, which followed weeks of escalating military tensions, had forced Germany to reassess the situation.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament that the UK would impose sanctions on five Russian banks as well as oligarchs Gennadiy Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg.
“This is the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do,” Johnson told MPs, adding that “we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed alongside the US and EU if the situation escalates still further.”
Some in the House of Commons called on the prime minister to go further by barring the oligarchs from entering the UK, and questioned whether Russia was an appropriate host for international sporting competitions such as the Champions League final – set for May in St. Petersburg.
Johnson said there was “no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries.”
In a joint statement ahead of the EU foreign ministers meeting, the heads of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council, Charles Michel called Moscow’s “aggression” against Ukraine “illegal and unacceptable.”
PUTIN MAKES HIS MOVE
In a fiery speech Monday evening, Putin recognized the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk and announced that he was sending in Russian “peacekeeping” forces, a move that essentially tore up the Minsk Accords signed in 2015 to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine,
“I would like to emphasize again that Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space,” he said.
Putin said negotiations with Western countries on resolving the Ukraine crisis have hit a “dead end” and that the situation in the Donbas region – where since 2014 Russia-backed separatists have battled Ukrainian government forces in a conflict that has claimed around 14,000 lives – “has reached a critical, acute stage.”
Russia’s president also issued a stark warning to Ukraine’s government.