The EU is imposing further sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine after self-rule referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions say 89% and 96% respectively voted in favor of “self-rule”.
Earlier the head of the rebel Donetsk election commission, Roman Lyagin, said joining Russia “would probably be an appropriate step”.
The EU is imposing further sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine after self-rule referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk
Two Crimean companies and 13 individuals have been added to the sanctions list – the names are likely to be announced officially within the next 24 hours.
The sanctions impose travel bans and asset freezes. EU ministers are also discussing what might trigger a broader package of sanctions against the Russian economy.
In a brief statement, the Kremlin described the referendums as “the will of the people” and noted the “high turnout”.
The Kremlin denounced what it claimed had been “attempts to disrupt the votes, with the use of force, including the use of heavy weapons, against civilians”.
The Russian authorities said they expected the results of the vote to be implemented in a civilized manner, without any repetition of violence and called for dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk.
Later Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said there were no plans to hold fresh international talks on the crisis – he accused the West of an “information blockade” over events in Ukraine and of “shameless lies”.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to travel to Kiev on Tuesday to promote “dialogue” between the different parties.
The US and EU have decided to imposed “deeper sanctions” against Russia if there are “further incursions into Ukraine”.
President Barack Obama said “energy is obviously a central focus of our efforts”, acknowledging it “will have some impact on the global economy”.
Barack Obama was speaking after talks in Brussels with EU leaders Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy.
At a news conference the three men spoke of the special relationship between the transatlantic partners.
Barack Obama said: “The world is safer and more just when Europe and America stand as one.”
Herman Van Rompuy, European Council president, called it a “crucial” relationship.
Their talks at the headquarters of the 28-nation EU bloc also covered plans to finalize a transatlantic trade partnership, as well as efforts to tackle Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s chemical weapons.
Barack Obama praised the EU for the steps it had already taken – along with the US – to penalize Russia. These have included visa bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian officials.
Barack Obama was speaking after talks in Brussels with EU leaders Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy
He said those actions were taken after Russian forces moved in to annex Crimea, and they now must consider “the potential for additional, deeper sanctions” should Moscow attempt to do the same in other parts of Ukraine.
“We recognize that in order for Russia to feel the impact of these sanctions, it will have some impact on the global economy as well as on all the countries represented here today,” Barack Obama said.
Acknowledging that some EU countries are more dependent than others on Russia for energy, he said “this entire event has pointed to the need for Europe to look at how it can further diversify its energy sources”.
Barack Obama said NATO must remain a “regular presence” in those eastern European countries who are now feeling vulnerable to possible Russian intervention. He also voiced concern at the falling defense budgets of some countries.
Herman Van Rompuy called Russia’s actions in Crimea “a disgrace in the 21st century, and we will not recognize it”.
Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russia earlier this month after a referendum which Kiev and the West considered illegal.
It follows the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych at the end of February following months of bloody protests over his decision to seek greater ties with Moscow rather than the EU.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine remain high. Moscow accused Ukrainian officials on Wednesday of preventing Russian commercial pilots and crew from disembarking at Kiev International Airport.
This is Barack Obama’s first official visit to the EU headquarters in Brussels.
He began his trip to Belgium with a visit to a cemetery in Flanders, where US soldiers killed in World War One are buried.
He paid tribute to fallen US soldiers at the American Cemetery and Memorial in Waregem, to mark 100 years since the start of WW1. Belgian King Philippe and Prime Minister Elio di Rupo were also in attendance.
Following his talks with Herman Van Rompuy and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Barack Obama will meet NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials following the controversial referendum in Crimea.
The moves follow Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, in which officials say 97% of voters backed breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia.
The individuals targeted by the sanctions are seen as having played a key role in the referendum, which Kiev, the US and EU deem illegal.
Pro-Russian forces have been in control of Crimea since late February.
Moscow says the troops are pro-Russian self-defense forces and not under its direct control.
The EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials following the controversial referendum in Crimea
President Barack Obama said in a press conference that Washington stood “ready to impose further sanctions” depending on whether Russia escalated or de-escalated the situation in Ukraine.
If Moscow continued to intervene in Ukraine, Barack Obama warned, it would “achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world”.
The EU published a list of sanctions against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels. The list includes the acting prime minister of Crimea, the speaker of Crimea’s parliament, three senior Russian commanders and several senior Russian parliamentary officials.
Selection of officials targeted:
Dmitry Rogozin – Russian deputy PM (US)
Valentina Matviyenko – head of Russia’s upper house (US)
Sergei Aksyonov – acting PM of Crimea (US and EU)
Vladimir Konstantinov – speaker of Crimean parliament (US and EU)
Viktor Yanukovych – former Ukrainian president (US)
Andrei Klishas – member of Russia’s upper house (US and EU)
Leonid Slutsky – head of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) parliamentary committee in Russia (US and EU)
Sergei Zheleznyak – deputy speaker of Russia’s state Duma (EU)
Alexsandr Vitko – commander of Black Sea Fleet (EU) [youtube HRY6OyI5F0k 650] [youtube Gteq8Nq-J18 650]
EU foreign ministers have decided to impose sanctions on Ukrainian officials “responsible for violence and excessive force”.
According to a statement released by the EU foreign ministers, targeted sanctions including asset freezes and visa bans would be introduced “as a matter of urgency”.
At least 21 anti-government protesters died in clashes in Kiev on Thursday.
Officials said that one policeman had also died and that 67 police had been captured by protesters.
“No circumstances can justify the repression we are currently witnessing,” the statement from EU foreign ministers said.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the “prime responsibility” to get talks between the two sides under way lay with President Viktor Yanukovych.
At least 21 anti-government protesters died in clashes in Kiev on Thursday
Speaking after an emergency meeting of EU foreign minsters in Brussels, Catherine Ashton said ministers had expressed their “dismay” at the latest violence and had agreed to “suspend export licences for equipment for internal repression”.
Implementation of the measures “will be taken forward in light of developments in Ukraine”, she added.
The EU has until now refrained from imposing sanctions on Ukraine, preferring to emphasise dialogue and compromise.
The US state department had already announced visa bans on 20 members of the Ukrainian government but has not provided any names.
At least 21 protesters were killed by security forces in Kiev on Thursday following the breakdown of a truce the previous day. Officials say 67 people have now died in violence since Tuesday.
EU foreign ministers have said they will not renew an arms embargo on the Syrian opposition, due to expire on Saturday.
However, there was no immediate decision to send arms to Syrian rebels and all other sanctions remained in force.
Even so, Russia said it would “directly harm” the prospects of an international peace conference on Syria.
The EU declaration on Syria came after 12 hours of talks in Brussels. Foreign ministers were unable to reach the unanimous decision required to extend the current arms embargo, and so agreed to renew the other sanctions – including an assets freeze on President Bashar al-Assad and his aides, and restrictions on trade in oil and financial transactions – without it.
The EU decision will not make much difference on the ground in the immediate future.
Member states can now decide their own policy on sending arms to Syria, but agreed not to “proceed at this stage with the delivery” of equipment.
The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council is to review this position before August 1, in light of fresh developments to end the conflict including the ongoing US-Russia peace initiative.
Britain and France had been pressing for the ability to send weapons to what they call moderate opponents of President Assad, saying it would push Damascus towards a political solution to the two-year conflict.
EU foreign ministers have said they will not renew an arms embargo on the Syrian opposition, due to expire on Saturday
There has been increasing pressure on the international community to act since allegations emerged of chemical weapons being used in the conflict. Syria has denied using chemical weapons.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the outcome of the Brussels talks, saying it was “important for Europe to send a clear signal to the Assad regime that it has to negotiate seriously, and that all options remain on the table if it refuses to do so”.
But other countries had opposed opening the way for weapons to be sent, saying it would only worsen the violence that has already cost at least 80,000 lives.
Austria had been a key opponent of arms being sent.
“The EU should hold the line. We are a peace movement and not a war movement,” Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called the EU move “a manifestation of double standards”. Russia and the US are leading efforts to organize a peace conference on Syria next month.
The Syrian opposition has not said whether to attend the conference, and was locked in talks in Istanbul, Turkey, as an unofficial deadline to decide on its attendance passed.
A spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Louay Safi, was quoted by news agency AFP as saying that the EU move was “a positive step”, but that the coalition was “afraid it could be too little, too late”.
George Jabboure Netto, a spokesman for the Syrian National Council (SNC), another opposition group, said the dropping of the arms embargo was a “step in the right direction”.
He said the SNC was willing to negotiate an end to the conflict, but only on the condition that there was no place for President Bashar al-Assad in the new Syria.
“We think coupling the arming of [the] Free Syrian Army with diplomatic efforts is a must for any hopes for the diplomatic efforts to succeed.”
The EU embargo, first imposed in May 2011, applies to the rebels as much as the Syrian government.
But in February this year, foreign ministers agreed to enable any EU member state to provide non-lethal military equipment “for the protection of civilians” or for the opposition forces, “which the Union accepts as legitimate representatives of the Syrian people”.
Taiwan is suspending hiring Filipino workers and recalling its envoy amid a row over the killing of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng.
Taiwan said the move showed President Ma Ying-jeou’s “strong dissatisfaction” with Manila’s handling of the case.
Hung Shih-cheng was shot by the Philippine coast guard last week in waters both sides claim.
Early on Wednesday, the Philippine envoy in Taipei apologized over the incident – after a three-day deadline set by Taiwan for an apology expired.
Antonio Basilio, head of the Philippine Representative Office in Taiwan, said Manila had agreed to compensate the fisherman’s family and conduct a joint investigation into the incident.
“The Filipino people and the government understand the hurt and grief that the Taiwanese people have felt as result of the death of one of their own fellow citizens,” Antonio Basilio said.
But the Taiwanese leader felt the apology did not come from a high enough authority and lacked “sincerity”, his spokeswoman said.
President Ma Ying-jeou had also asked Antonio Basilio to return to the Philippines to “help properly handle” the case, she added.
Taiwan is suspending hiring Filipino workers and recalling its envoy amid a row over the killing of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng
Later on Wednesday, Taiwan’s PM Jiang Yi-huah told reporters that he was dissatisfied with the apology because it came from the representative office, not the Philippine government, and because the statement had been changed several times.
“Philippine civil servants killed a person and damaged the boat, the Philippine government cannot avoid responsibility,” he said.
Taiwan has demanded a “formal apology” from Manila, compensation for the victim’s family, investigation and punishment for those responsible for the shooting, and the commencement of bilateral fishing talks.
It says it will consider adopting a second wave of sanctions against the Philippines if it does not receive a satisfactory reply by 18:00 local time on Wednesday.
These include issuing a travel warning to discourage Taiwanese people from visiting the Philippines, stopping all high-level exchanges and carrying out a military exercise in the disputed waters.
The Philippines’ special envoy Amadeo Perez is expected to arrive in Taipei on Wednesday to meet the family of the fishermen and express “deep regret and apology from the people of the Philippines”, Antonio Basilio said.
There are about 88,000 Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan, most of whom work in the manufacturing sector.
Taiwan’s labor office receives around 3,000 work applications from the Philippines each month.
Hung Shih-cheng, the 65-year-old fisherman, was shot dead on May 9 when the coastguard vessel opened fire on his boat.
He was in waters south-east of Taiwan and north of the Philippines, an area considered by both countries to be their 200 nautical mile-from-shore exclusive economic zone.
The Philippine coast guard said its crew believed he was trying to ram their vessel – claims the Taiwanese fishermen have denied.
Maritime tensions in the South China Sea have been heightened in recent months. China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei have competing territorial claims in the region.
These disputes have existed for years but in recent months China has been taking a more assertive stance – prompting a robust response from some nations.