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EUROPEAN COUNCIL : UKRAINE: EU LEADERS TO MEET AS PUTIN DEFENDS MILITARY INTERVENTION.

Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, has convened an extraordinary EU summit for 6 March. "The summit is expected to begin at 11:30 and finish with a press conference around 15:00. The EU heads of state and government will discuss the latest developments in Ukraine and how to facilitate the necessary de-escalation of the situation," Van Rompuy said in a press release. On 3 March, he tweetet that the acting Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, will also be in Brussels on 6 March. He will join the EU summit participants for an exchange of views at the beginning of their session and will join them for their working lunch, scheduled for 13:00.

Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Radek Sikorski had suggested inviting Yatsenyuk after the extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 3 March, which resulted in a strongly worded resolution that calls on Russia to withdraw its troops from Crimea and threatens "targeted" sanctions against Russian officials in case Moscow refuses to budge.

Poland, which as a neighbouring country has an obvious interest in the developments in Ukraine, is understood also to have initiated efforts within the European Commission to try and put together an ad hoc loan deal for Ukraine. The proposal is to be discussed by the College of Commissioners on 5 March, and will be presented at the EU summit the following day.

Meanwhile, in a press conference on 4 March, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his actions in Crimea as "humanitarian" and insisted that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych was the victim of a coup d'etat and is still Ukraine's legitimate head of state. However, he admitted that he does not expect Yanukovych to return to power and announced that he has given instructions to various government ministries to communicate with their Ukrainian counterparts.

But Putin also reserved his option of military intervention in mainland Ukraine, saying that while there is no need to send troops now, he remained committed to use "all means" to "protect Russian citizens" in Eastern Ukraine.

Asked about the threat of Western sanctions against Russia, Putin responded that the West should think twice before going down that route, as in today's interconnected world, the effects of sanctions are bound to be "felt mutually".

Putin's point was illustrated by a leaked confidential UK government working paper, which a photo journalist managed to capture on camera outside 10 Downing Street on 3 March. It says that Britain would "not support, for now, trade sanctions" nor the closing off of "London's financial centre to Russians".

The UK is not alone in having important economic links with Russia, which they are unwilling to jeopardise. Germany is a major trading partner, and several smaller member states like Cyprus, Latvia and Bulgaria have important Russian business interests represented inside their countries.

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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4EXUR
Date:Mar 5, 2014
Words:469
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