MEPs demand sanctions against Russian oligarchy as tension on Ukraine border grows

“Once again Russia is sending strong signals that it may commit yet another violation with a large-scale military build-up along the border with Ukraine… We must not tolerate it,”

Ukrainian soldiers walk at the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Katerinivka, Donetsk
Ukrainian soldiers walk at the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Katerinivka, Donetsk

The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resoution for the European Union to uphold the support for Ukraine’s Independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity as it faces a build-up of Russian forces on its borders.

“Once again Russia is sending strong signals that it may commit yet another violation with a large-scale military build-up along the border with Ukraine. Deploying for the second time this year around 100,000 troops and equipment… We must not tolerate it,” said socialist MEP Pedro Marques.

MEPs voted 569 in favour, with 46 against and 49 abstaining, in support of the EU’s policy not to recognise the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol; and condemning Russia’s direct and indirect involvement in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The current and ongoing build-up of Russian forces was condemned along with the belligerent rhetoric accompanying it.

MEPs demanded that Russia immediately and fully withdraws its troops from the border and cease all aggressive behavior.

“This behaviour is done purposefully to extract political concessions from the West at the expense of Ukraine,” MEPs said in the resolution, adding that Europe and its allies should be ready to levy “severe economic and financial sanctions in close coordination with the United States, NATO and other partners” as a deterrent, targeting especially the wealth and finances of Russian army officers and members of the Russian oligarchy.

“Member States should ensure that they are no longer welcoming places for Russian wealth and investments of unclear origin… we call on the Commission and the Council to increase efforts to curb the Kremlin’s strategic investments within the EU for the purposes of subversion, undermining democratic processes and institutions, and spreading corruption.”

Similarly to these measures, the resolution also demands that the EU reduce its dependency on Russia for energy targeting the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline and suggesting it should be scrapped due to the “long-term, fundamental concerns about the political, economic and security risks.” it entails.

Most MEPs who spoke in the debate were decidedly against Russia and did not view any of its actions as legitimate, but some called for a more considered approach with a few swimming against the current, pointing out what they saw as hypocrisy on the part of the West and Ukraine in their actions.

Petras Auštrevičius (Renew) described Russia's behaviour as “the Russian bear angrily roaring on the European borders” trying to “impose on us the rule of the jungle.”

He said Russia’s continuous belligerence had be regarded as a threat to overall European stability and security and called for “resolute deterrence and support action”.

Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel (Greens) echoed Auštrevičius’s stance, stating that “history teaches us that appeasing a bully is a very dangerous strategy, it’s immoral and counter-productive.”

“Nothing terrifies the Kremlin more than a free democratic nation on its borders,” Von Cramon-Taubadel said, backing calls to scrap Nord Stream-2, and describing the act of increasing EU dependency on Russian gas as an endangerment of the continent's future.

Mick Wallace (Left group) went against this narrative, describing the black-and-white view of Russia as purely the aggressor a “fantasy”, and saying Russia had engaged seriously with Ukraine.

Wallace pointed to serious internal problems inside Ukraine, and that the over-simplication of the situation as a purely Russian problem was hampering progress.

Sven Mikser (S&D) described the situation as extremely dangerous and provocative but believed a political solution was not impossible to achieve.

Bernard Guetta (Renew) was brief and harsh: “Okay Mr Putin you want to talk about security guarantees, let’s talk, but what guarantee of non-aggression or non-interference in domestic affairs can you give for sovereign states that are your immediate neighbours? Like Belarus, like Belarus!”

Cristian Terheș (ECR) gave a hardline response drawing on the history of past nuclear disarmament agreements, declaring unequivocally his support for the national sovereignty, independence and internationally recognized borders of Ukraine, suggesting to “use all the necessary means” to help Ukraine defend itself.

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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