MAY 12 2014 13:40h

Pusic: Ukraine election key test for further sanctions against Russia

Vesna Pusić




The European Union might impose economic sanctions on Russia if the presidential election in Ukraine this month is obstructed, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Vesna Pusic said on Monday.
"If the presidential election in Ukraine is conducted properly, it will be a positive step forward, but in the event of serious conflict and obstruction a third stage of sanctions might be imposed as a response," Pusic told reporters on arrival in Brussels for a meeting of EU foreign ministers, which will focus on the situation in Ukraine.
The EU has prepared a three-stage response to the Russian destabilisation of Ukraine. The first stage included suspension of talks on a new visa regime, the ongoing second stage includes barring entry to the EU and freezing the assets of Russian officials involved in the Ukraine crisis, while the third stage envisages imposition of economic sanctions.
"Unfortunately, there is still no solution or start of improvement in sight, which is why I think that the third stage is not ruled out, but it is not on the agenda yet," Pusic said, adding that a key moment for that decision would be the presidential election in Ukraine, scheduled for May 25.
EU foreign ministers may decide on Monday to expand the list of persons who are banned from entering the EU because of the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, and several companies based in Crimea may be included on the list.
The EU does not recognise a referendum on independence which was held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Sunday. "The result of that so-called referendum will be used arbitrarily, which is worrying because of its destabilising potential," Pusic said.
The importance of the presidential election in Ukraine was also highlighted by other EU ministers and the chairman of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Didier Burkhalter, who said that everything should be done to ensure that the election was held on May 25. Burkhalter will inform the EU ministers of the situation in Ukraine.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the EU should strongly support the OSCE mission in Ukraine, adding that the Sunday referendum did not meet a single standard of transparency and objectivity.
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