By Jonny Tickle
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the EU to apply pre-emptive sanctions against Russia before any potential military escalation, suggesting that threats of harsh measures after an invasion would be too late.
Speaking on Wednesday in Brussels following the Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit – a meeting of EU member states with Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova – Zelensky suggested that measures could convince Russia not to escalate militarily, while also noting that Kiev is open to starting negotiations directly with Moscow.
Zelensky’s statement comes as tensions remain high on the border between Ukraine and Russia. Due to reported troop movements, multiple Western media outlets have suggested that a conflict is around the corner. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that it has any plans to invade and has called for a diplomatic solution.
“Some leaders have suggested a format for responding after a likely escalation by Russia… we have been able to explain to our European colleagues that a sanctions policy ‘after’ is no longer of interest to anyone, frankly,” Zelensky said. “We are in favor of a strong sanctions policy before escalation, so there may not be a likely escalation at all. Such a relationship, pre-emptive of dangerous steps, will be able to stop the conflict in the east of our country, which has been going on for eight years.”
The Ukrainian president also stated that he would be willing to talk to Russia in “any format,” noting that the drive to end the conflict in the southeast of his country is a priority.
“We are saying this openly, and not for the first time. We need the same desire to stop the war from the Russian side as well,” Zelensky said.
In the last few weeks, the US and its NATO allies in Europe have threatened Moscow with severe measures in case of military escalation. Earlier this month, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland revealed that Russia would be hit with “high-impact economic measures, the likes of which we have not used before.”
However, despite threats from Washington, some reports have suggested that major European countries are seeking to use dialogue instead of sanctions. Germany, Spain, Italy, and France have resisted any movement to plan a specific set of measures, instead preferring to arrange talks, American news agency Bloomberg claimed.