European leaders harden stance against Russia but stop short of imposing new sanctions
European leaders hardened their stance against Russia but have stopped short of imposing new sanctions at the EU summit in Brussels today.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been to date reluctant to escalate tensions with Moscow, but today agreed to increase the pressure on Russian Premier, Vladamir Putin.
At the summit, Ukraine's new president signed a trade and economic pact with the European Union on Friday, pushing his troubled country closer into a European orbit and angering Russia, which warned of unspecified consequences.
A beaming President Petro Poroshenko called it "maybe the most important day for my country" since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
European Union leaders, meanwhile, decided not to immediately impose new sanctions on Russia for destabilising eastern Ukraine.
In a statement, however, the leaders said new sanctions have been prepared so they could be imposed "without delay" and listed several demands for Vladimir Putin's government and the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The EU Council of the 28 heads of state have set a deadline of next Monday for border checkpoints to be handed back to Ukrainian control and for captured hostages to be released by pro Russian forces.
If those conditions are not met, then the leaders will assess the situation, and if required, impose further sanctions.