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The European Union has told Ukraine it is not ready to slap sanctions on Moscow at this time, but it did back plans for financial assistance to the country struggling under the threat of attack from Russia.
Foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters on the sidelines of the bloc’s foreign ministers summit in Brussels on February 21 that he would convene an extraordinary EU meeting to set sanctions only "when the moment comes."
The decision rebuffed calls by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba for the West to immediately take steps against Moscow that he has said would help avert war rather than wait for a possible Russian invasion.
Western nations have said they expect Russia to invade Ukraine at any moment following a massive buildup of troops along their border. Moscow denies it is planning to attack, but U.S. officials have said they believe Moscow is looking to create a pretext for an invasion.
"We expect decisions," Kuleba said in Brussels before addressing the EU foreign ministers.
"We believe that there are good and legitimate reasons to impose at least some of the sanctions now to demonstrate that the European Union is not only talking the talk about sanctions, but is also walking the walk," he said.
Borrell said, however, that for now, EU ministers back the diplomacy route, including moves by France to broker a meeting of U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Summit meetings, at the level of leaders, at the level of ministers, whatever format, whatever way of talking and sitting at the table and trying to avoid a war, are badly needed," Borrell said.
The United States and Russia have said that a summit of the two has been agreed “in principle,” but Washington has said it will only take place if Russia does not invade Ukraine. Moscow, meanwhile, has said nothing “concrete” has been set up regarding a meeting.
The EU ministers did support plans announced in January for a $1.36 billion financial aid loan package for Ukraine.
They also agreed in principle to a Ukrainian request for a team of military instructors to help train officers.
Kuleba welcomed the agreement to send military instructors and noted that they were not "combat forces," while the EU stressed that the mission would be limited in scope.
"The details, the parameters, and the timeline of this rollout are still to be discussed. But this is critical we open that new phase in our relations," Kuleba said.
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