The member states believe that it is too early to adopt economic measures, but are ready to add new names to their black list'

The Russian decree on the annexation of Crimea, signed by President Vladimir Putin on 18 March, has elicited hard criticism across Europe and escalated further the conflict between the EU and Moscow. However, the member states' governments appear to hesitate to expand their sanctions against their Eastern neighbor, opting instead for a detailed assessment of the potential effects of the possible economic, trade and energy-related measures.

The member states stated, on 17 March, that any attempt by Moscow to further destabilise the situation in Ukraine would lead to "far-reaching" sanctions in a broad range of economic areas. The absence of a strong response to the annexation of Crimea proves that the Union considers this a lost battle, and shows that only an intrusion by Russia into the East of Ukraine would provoke a stronger European response.

According to several diplomatic sources, the European Council, to be held on 20-21 March, would send a "soft" response to Russia, possibly by adding new names to the travel ban and asset freeze list. However, the sources agreed that it is early to increase pressure by imposing economic sanctions, including an arms embargo, trade measures or reducing oil and gas imports. This would be the third, and final, stage of sanctions against Russia agreed by EU leaders on 6 March. The EU has already suspended talks with Moscow on investment and visa-free travel and imposed an asset freeze and a visa ban on 13 Russian individuals.

Different sources have explained that a possible outcome of the summit would be an "intermediate stage," in which the member...

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