EU to toughen Russia sanctions over Ukraine

Economic pressure to be stepped up for role in crisis as Kiev and Moscow trade allegations of cross-border attacks.

    The European Union is set to adopt much tougher economic sanctions against Russia for what officials allege is its role in the Ukraine crisis.

    After discussions on broadening the sanctions from the current mix of asset freezes and travel bans, the legal instruments required to give effect to the new punitive measures will be taken up on Tuesday, they said.

    The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, "will swiftly table the necessary legislative proposals in all areas identified" by member states earlier this week, a statement said.

    EU foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday that the Commission and the bloc's external affairs arm should finalise work on tougher measures targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy.

    The 28-nation EU toughened its stance towards Russia following last week's downing of a Malaysian airliner, killing 298 people, in an area of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists.

    Civilians attacked

    In another development, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the New York-based rights monitor, said on Friday that it had found a "mass grave" in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk.

    It also said both warring sides in eastern Ukraine are illegally attacking civilians with unguided rockets.

    "Instead of denying it, I think it would be wise for the Ukrainian government to commit to immediately stop using this kind of rockets in populated areas," Ole Solvang, HRW researcher, told Al Jazeera.

    For its part, Ukraine blamed the rebels for attacks on civilians, saying "terrorists" are trying to discredit government forces.

    Along with the US, Ukraine has also accused Russia of firing across the border into Ukraine and moving in heavy artillery.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told US Vice President Joe Biden in a telephone conversation on Friday that Ukrainian troops were increasingly coming under direct fire from the Russian side of the border, according to a White House statement.

    Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, said five salvoes of heavy rockets were fired across the border near the town of Kolesnikov, in the Luhansk region in the country's east.

    Russia accused the US of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village.

    It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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