The US assistant secretary of state has warned Russia that the territory of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is inviolable, saying that every piece of it will be defended.
Victoria Nuland said Washington would like to see Moscow completely end its support for groups demanding more autonomy in Ukraine’s east and south, and help disarm them.
In relevant remarks, she told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday that the European Union and the United States are unanimously working on a new round of economic sanctions if Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election is disrupted by Russia.
“What we’re doing this week is trying to develop this strong sectoral package on both sides of the Atlantic so that the Russians can see it, understand it, and understand its impact if they take further action to prevent these elections from happening,” Nuland said.
Meanwhile, European countries have given a preliminary go-ahead for broadening sanctions against Moscow. The sanctions target people, companies or organizations that have profited from Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
European foreign ministers will be meeting in Brussels on May 12 to discuss further sanctions. The bloc has already ordered visa bans and asset freezes for 48 people it accuses of threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The EU expansion of sanctions coincided with a White House announcement that the US was imposing its third round of sanctions, targeting seven senior Russian officials and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle.”
The Ukrainian crisis began last November when the country’s then president, Viktor Yanukovych, refrained from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
The refusal triggered months of unrest and clashes with the police, which finally led to the ouster of Yanukovych on February 23. He then travelled to Russia, where he was given sanctuary.