Russia: Nuclear strike would turn Germany into a wasteland
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The leaders of the three countries lobbied the European Union at a summit on Wednesday to let them begin negotiations to join the bloc, but for now they are expected only to win reassurances of support against any possible Russian aggression.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron also met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the Brussels summit to seek an end to the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine and to emphasise warnings of more EU sanctions on Russia if it invades.
Speaking in Berlin, Mr Scholz said: “Any violation of territorial integrity will have a high price and we will speak with one voice here with our European partners and our transatlantic allies.”
Russia’s foreign ministry on Twitter urged the West and Ukraine to implement the peace deals of 2014 and 2015 that include prisoner exchanges, aid and the withdrawal of weapons.
The Kremlin has also demanded that NATO drop a 2008 commitment to allow Ukraine and Georgia to join the alliance if they fullfill requirements.
But Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas furiously hit back at Putin’s demands.
Speaking to Politico, he said: “I don’t think that Russia has any right to say anything about who has the right and who doesn’t have the right to join [the] European Union or NATO.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also said on Wednesday that Russia’s squeezing of Moldova’s gas supplies is a “blatant attempt” by Moscow to intimidate Moldova’s reformist government.
Von der Leyen, addressing the European Parliament, said the European Union wanted good relations with Russia, but this depended first and foremost on Russia’s behaviour, referring initially to its military build-up on Ukraine’s border.
She said: “We also see the blatant attempt to intimidate Moldova’s reformist government by squeezing them on gas-supplies at a time of high energy prices.
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“We must protect our societies and democracies from this kind of cynical geopolitical power play.”
Von der Leyen said the EU had worked closely with the United States to draw up options going beyond existing sanctions targeting Russia’s financial and energy sectors, dual-use goods and defence.
She added: “Our response to any further aggression may take the form of a robust scaling-up and expansion of these existing sanctions regimes.
“And of course we are ready to take additional, unprecedented measures with serious consequences for Russia.”
Ukraine is currently the main flashpoint between Russia and the West. The United States says Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, possibly in preparation for an invasion.
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Moscow says its actions are purely defensive.
The one-day ‘Eastern Partnership’ summit in Brussels highlights the limited success of the EU’s approach to the six ex-Soviet republics it embraces, all of them in what Russia considers its backyard where it has security interests.
Of the six, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are all locked in territorial disputes with Moscow. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan are attending the summit but are not seeking EU membership. Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko, hit by Western sanctions over his human rights record, stayed away.
Mr Zelenskiy said after meeting EU summit chair Charles Michel: “Our goal is full membership in the European Union.”
Excerpts of a draft final summit statement, seen by Reuters and due to be published later on Wednesday, show that the EU will “acknowledge the European aspirations and the European choice” of the five countries concerned.
Under the Eastern Partnership initiative, the EU is offering money, technical assistance and free trade but not membership.
But joining the EU remains an attractive goal, and on Wednesday the daughter of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said she thought even Russia itself would one day become a member.
Speaking at NATO headquarters, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili urged the West also to allow his country into the Atlantic alliance, a goal sought by Ukraine too.
In a veiled reference to what the countries say are Russian efforts to stymie their Western orientation, Garibashvili told reporters: “Each and every state has their sovereign right to choose their own foreign policy course.”
Moldovan President Maia Sandu told Reuters on Tuesday her country aspires to join the EU and has told Russia.
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