EU will hold emergency Ukraine summit on Thursday to 'hold Russia accountable'

Ukrainian servicemen are seen on the front line with Russia-backed separatists, near the eastern Ukraine city of Lugansk, on Feb 23, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - European Union leaders will hold an emergency summit on Thursday (Feb 24) to discuss what to do next over Russia's recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, after the bloc approved on Wednesday a first, limited round of sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognised the independence of two separatist enclaves in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine that adjoin Russia and ordered troops to go there, deepening Western fears of a major war in Europe.

The EU sanctions set to take effect later on Wednesday include blacklisting more politicians and curbing trade between the EU and the two breakaway regions.

"It is important that we continue to be united and determined and jointly define our collective approach and actions," EU Council chief Charles Michel said in a letter inviting EU leaders to Brussels.

He said a special European Council meeting would be held on Thursday from 1900 GMT (3am on Friday, Singapore time).

Mr Michel said the agenda of the meeting would include discussing "how we protect the rules-based international order; how we deal with Russia notably holding Russia accountable for its actions; how we will further support Ukraine and its people".

The impact of the first round of sanctions is likely to be limited, as Western governments are for now preferring to keep the much larger sanctions packages that they have planned in reserve should the crisis escalate.

The measures, formally approved by EU governments on Wednesday, include restricting the Russian government's ability to raise capital on the EU's financial markets "to limit the financing of escalatory and aggressive policies", the EU said in a statement, without giving details.

The EU has also decided on an import ban on goods from the breakaway regions, restrictions on trade and investment, a prohibition on supplying tourism services, and an export ban on some goods and technologies.

The EU chose not to sanction Mr Putin himself but to instead blacklist all members of the lower house of the Russian Parliament who voted in favour of recognising the breakaway regions, freezing any assets they have in the EU and banning them from travelling to the bloc.

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