France threatens EU sanctions, Russia says stop threats (Roundup)

Paris/Moscow/Kiev, March 5: French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Wednesday warned Russia of rapid European sanctions if attempts to reach a diplomatic solution to end Ukraine’s crisis failed even as a top Russian legislator urged the West to stop threatening restrictions against Moscow.

Speaking to the news channel BFMTV, Fabius said European leaders could impose, during a crisis meeting on Ukraine Thursday, sanctions on Moscow that include restrictions on visas, the assets of individuals and existing discussions on economic ties with Russia, Xinhua reported.

“Let’s start to initiate the path of dialogue but at the same time tomorrow there is an EU summit and sanctions could be voted tomorrow if there is no de-escalation,” the French minister said.

Meanwhile, Valentina Matvienko, chairperson of the Federation Council or the upper house of the Russian parliament, urged the West to stop threatening sanctions against Moscow, as the potential isolation could be mutually counter-productive.

“Threats and language of sanctions towards Russia are absolutely counter-productive. It is impossible to imagine how sanctions could isolate Russia from the global economic process,” Xinhua quoted Matvienko as telling reporters in Moscow.

She also said that the Russian economy was deeply integrated into the global economy and trade between Russia and the West was mutually beneficial.

Noting that 40 percent of Russia’s imports came from the European Union (EU), and 50 percent of its exports went to the EU, Matvienko said it was hard to imagine how these trade flows could be stopped.

She said any reasonable politician must understand the Russian and Ukrainian economies are intertwined and hence Moscow cannot be detached from Ukrainian affairs.

In a related development, Moscow asked the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to rule whether decisions being made by Ukraine’s parliament are legitimate.

“We sent a request to the Venice Commission via the PACE’s judicial committee over legitimacy of the decisions being made (by Ukraine’s Supreme Rada),” Xinhua quoted Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) Speaker Sergei Naryshkin as telling a meeting of the Duma’s working group.

The group was asked to analyse the legal status of legislations passed recently by the Supreme Rada.

The Venice Commission, also known as the European Commission for Democracy Through Law, was created in 1990 with the primary task of assisting and advising individual countries on constitutional matters in order to improve the functioning of democratic institutions and the protection of human rights.

He stressed that Russian and Ukrainian legislators worked in the same legal field and any hasty changes to the Ukrainian constitution could jeopardise that country’s stability and welfare.

In Madrid, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the agreement signed Feb 21 between ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition must be respected as it was the way out of the crisis in Ukraine.

Speaking about the position of the Russian government on Ukraine at a press conference held jointly with his Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Lavrov highlighted that the Feb 21 agreement must be respected because it was a way out of the current crisis in Ukraine.

The agreement between Viktor Yanukovych and the three main opposition leaders announced early elections and the reduction of presidential powers.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian foreign ministry dismissed reports that Kiev was in talks with the US over a possible deployment of missile defence systems in Ukraine.

“There are no negotiations on this issue and there isn’t any hint regarding it,” foreign ministry spokesman Eugene Perebiynis told Ukrainian news agency Interfax.

Perebiynis also said that Kiev and Washington were in talks on possible financial aid to Ukraine.

But local media, citing Ukrainian Ambassador to Belarus Mykhailo Yezhel, reported that missile systems were also part of the discussions along with the aid talks.

IANS