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EU Leaders Warn Russia Of 'Massive Consequences' If Its Forces Invade Ukraine

By RFE/RL December 16, 2021

EU leaders have again warned Russia that it will face "massive consequences and severe costs" if it invades Ukraine and urged Moscow to return to French- and German-mediated talks to defuse tensions over a Russian military buildup on the Russia-Ukraine border.

The leaders on December 16 adopted a joint declaration saying there was an "urgent need for Russia to de-escalate tensions caused by the military build-up along its border with Ukraine and aggressive rhetoric."

An invasion would bring a "severe cost in response, including restrictive measures coordinated with partners" in London and Washington, the EU leaders said at the end of a summit in Brussels. The declaration did not specify what the measures would be.

The declaration again urged Moscow to engage in the Normandy format, a four-way dialogue between Paris, Berlin, Kyiv, and Moscow. The existing platform is aimed at ending the conflict between Ukraine and Russia that began more than seven years ago.

The EU leaders say it could be used to ease worry over Russia massing tens of thousands of troops near its border as a possible prelude to an invasion.

The United States and European Union have been alarmed over the buildup and previously warned of massive economic sanctions if Russia takes military action.

Russia has denied it is planning to invade Ukraine and has made security demands, including direct dialogue with the United States to resolve the standoff and a guarantee that Ukraine won't become a NATO member.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on December 16 called Russia the "aggressor" and said it had been increasing, not reducing, its troops on the border.

"We see no sign that this buildup is stopping or slowing down. On the contrary, it continues," he told reporters at NATO headquarters during a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Stoltenberg also said any decision on NATO membership was a matter for Kyiv and the alliance.

"We will not compromise on the right of Ukraine to choose its own path. We will not compromise on the right for NATO to protect and defend all NATO allies," Stoltenberg said.

He described NATO's partnership with Ukraine as important for both sides and said it was "not in any way a threat to Russia."

Zelenskiy said that while most EU leaders understand and support Ukraine's position in the conflict, he is frustrated that European powers have refused to take preliminary action against Russia, instead threatening to respond in the event of a military action.

Zelenskiy said on December 15 after meeting with EU leaders on the margins of the summit that Kyiv was ready for talks with Russia in the Normandy Format or any other, but urged Western countries to keep pressure on Moscow through sanctions.

He has said Ukraine stands ready to enter into talks with Russia to ease tensions, but Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't appear willing to come to the table.

France and Germany brokered a peace agreement in 2015 that helped end large-scale hostilities in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russia-backed separatists since 2014. But the conflict, which has left 13,200 dead so far, has simmered.

"Since 2014, since the start of the war, I believe that basically Russia pushed Ukraine into NATO," Zelenskiy said.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried, who traveled to Moscow earlier this week to meet Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, was at NATO headquarters on December 16 to discuss Russia's demands with Stoltenberg. She said the United States. also supports a return to talks under the Normandy Format.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and Deutschlandfunk

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/eu-summit -russia-ukraine/31611795.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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