EU to send $454 mn in arms to Ukraine, evaluate sanctions on Russian energy

Brussels, Mar 21 (EFE).- European Union foreign ministers on Monday agreed to spend another 500 million euros ($454 million) on weaponry to send to Ukraine so that it can defend against Russia’s ongoing invasion, and they decided to continue exploring new sanctions against Moscow that could affect oil and coal exploration in Russia.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, announced at a press conference after the ministers’ meeting a “political agreement” to use another 500 million euros from the European Peace Facility for Ukraine, a decision that will be formalized later.

The Spanish politician said that the ministers on Monday analyzed the situation in Ukraine and agreed to continue making decisions to help the beleaguered country, which was massively invaded by Russia troops and armor on Feb. 24.

“The conclusions were very clear. All the member states are extraordinarily united in support of Ukraine,” said Borrell, who insisted that Russian forces are committing “war crimes” and “violations of international law” with and during their invasion.

“What is happening in Ukraine is a massive war crime” by the Russian forces against the Ukrainian people, he said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares, meanwhile, said at a press conference that “the attack against Ukraine affects us all” and “is an affront against the entire population, the international order, human rights, and puts the stability of the region at risk.”

According to Borrell, the EU will continue providing financial and humanitarian to Ukraine and military support to its armed forces.

Although it was not announced whether the Council would make a legal decision regarding extending the use of the European Peace Facility for Ukraine, the measure was prepared on the political level and no member state questioned the need to continue providing arms and military supplies to the East European country, according to EU sources.

In addition, the Council will continue legal procedures to deliver the agreed-on support.

When asked about the possibility that the EU might adopt new sanctions against Moscow, beyond the four rounds of restrictive measures that already have hit the Russian economy and members of its elite hard, Borrell said that “some member states have posed questions related to energy,” but he emphasized that “today was not the day for decisions” on that matter.

“It’s not that one, two or three might be in favor or against it. This is about getting an effective response that doesn’t pose an unacceptable cost for the member states,” he said.

Several countries alluded on Monday to the possibility of banning trade in Russian crude or coal, although natural gas is a more delicate question due to the marked dependence of various member states on that fuel from Russia.

In any case, Borrell said that the EU leaders, when they meet at their summit on Thursday and Friday, “once again will consider what can be done regarding sanctions.”

“I don’t think that there’s going to be a formal decision about a package of sanctions, but certainly the European Council will give guidelines on how the future will unfold,” he said.

The foreign ministers, in a joint session with their defense counterparts on Monday, also approved the new defense strategy whereby the EU wants to achieve greater autonomy to transform itself into a provider of security for its citizens and on the international level, investing more and in a more coordinated way.”

Presented by Borrell last November, the document known as the “Strategic Compass” has had to be modified as the Twenty-Seven have negotiated about it to take into account the effect of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine and better prepare the EU against eventualities such as a war on European soil.

Thus, the EU is putting forth an “ambitious action plan” to strengthen its security and defense policy through 2030 with specific objectives and time periods, and to acquire more capacity to act and cooperate with partners to safeguard its values and interests.

Borrell said that its approval is an “inflection point” and that, although it does not constitute “an answer” to the Russian invasion, “it comes at a very important time because we certainly need to increase our security and defense capabilities.”

He noted that the EU spends 200 billion euros ($181 billion) on defense each year, “almost four times more than Russia, but without the same efficiency,” and just as much as China, although “certainly 27 different countries is not the same thing as an integrated military structure.”

Thus, starting from the basis that Europe “is in danger,” he said he was sure that the new strategy will help the EU to overcome the gaps and avoid duplications to do more jointly, in coordination with NATO and its international partners.

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