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Ukraine

EU ministers consider Russia sanctions over downed MH17

The EU has threatened to impose tougher sanctions on Russia. The new measures could further damage Russia's economy following the downing of a Malaysian airliner in Ukraine.

EU contemplates Russia sanctions

At a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, EU foreign ministers raised the possibility of imposing sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy, but delayed action until later in the week.

So-called "Stage 3" sanctions would likely restrict Russia's access to European capital markets and target the defense, energy and technology sectors. But according to EU diplomats, these broader measures would be imposed only if the Kremlin fails to cooperate with an international investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine.

Broader economic sanctions would require the unanimous approval of EU governments. The European Commission is drafting proposals this week.

EU envoys agreed to accelerate the imposition of further targeted sanctions against "entities and persons, including from the Russian Federation" who supported Moscow's annexation of Crimea last March. The list of targets will be presented on Thursday.

"I am happy that we have taken a decision which is I think quite forceful and that we have reached this decision unanimously," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans told reporters after the meeting. Most of MH17's passengers were Dutch.

Calls for arms embargo

Although not an EU member, Ukraine's top diplomat attended the foreign ministers meeting on Tuesday. He called on EU member states to halt arms sales to Moscow.

"We need not just tough talking, but we also need bold action by the European Union," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday. "I believe that in these circumstances arms and weapon supplies to Russia is also against the EU code of conduct."

Several ministers called for an arms embargo to stem the flow of weapons, including surface-to-air missiles of the type suspected of bringing down the airliner. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (pictured) spoke of a "substantial" increase in pressure, but said any such ban would only apply to future contracts.

French officials plan to go ahead with the delivery of a warship to Russia as part of a 1.2-billion-euro contract signed by former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011, despite pleas from the US and UK to halt it.

'Direct and full access'

On Tuesday, separatists released a train carrying victims' remains from a storage facility in Donetsk. However, Dutch experts have said that they could account for only 200 of the crash's 298 victims on board the train.

Some officials have accused Russia and the separatists of collaborating on a cover-up after the crash.

The Kremlin announced Tuesday that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss "direct and full access of experts to the tragedy site," in reference to inspectors.

The crash has sent shockwaves around the world, but especially in the Netherlands, where MH17 originated, and in Malaysia, where the plane was headed.

Come Wednesday, officials will send the first bodies to the Netherlands, which had 193 nationals aboard the flight and has taken the lead in investigating the disaster. The Netherlands will hold a national day of mourning on Wednesday. Rutte warned that identifying the bodies could take months.

Ukraine's government and separatists have declared a ceasefire at the crash site. Fighting continues, however, as troops battle the pro-Russian separatists for Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland.

mkg/slk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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