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EU ministers send further Putin warning, as White House says Ukraine escalation comes "with a cost"

Tensions have been rising over the past 48 hours, with pro-Kremlin militants seizing official buildings in orchestrated attacks.

Image: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP/Press Association Images

EU FOREIGN MINISTERS have agreed to impose further measures on Russia over the escalating situation in Ukraine, following a meeting today.

The list of people subject to visa bans and asset freezes has been extended in response to the ongoing crisis, as the ministers angrily blamed Moscow for fomenting trouble in restive eastern Ukraine while holding out hope of a diplomatic breakthrough.

Tensions have been rising over the past 48 hours, with pro-Kremlin militants seizing official buildings in orchestrated attacks.

“Foreign Ministers roundly condemned the illegal armed activity in Eastern Ukraine over recent days,” Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said after today’s Luxembourg meeting.

“We are issuing a very direct call on Russia to publicly repudiate this activity.”

Gilmore said the EU Foreign Affairs Council had “noted that any further steps by the Russian Federation to destabilise the situation in Ukraine would lead to additional and far-reaching consequences in a broad range of economic areas”.

“Preparatory work is underway on Phase Three economic measures so that further steps can be taken should events require.”

Package

As pro-Kremlin militias continued in control of many government buildings in defiance of a Kiev ultimatum to leave or face the consequences, the ministers stuck to a pledge to bolster Ukraine’s interim government, approving a €1 billion package to help overcome the country’s deep financial problems.

And in a further move to revive the flagging Ukrainian economy, the ministers also signed off on a plan to lower customs duties on Ukrainian goods that could save the country almost €500 million euros a year.

The Pro-Russian insurgents gained more ground today in the east, occupying a police station and an administrative building.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama planned to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin as early as today, and warned that Moscow’s actions “will come with a cost”.

Includes reporting from AFP

Read: At least two dead in firefight between Pro-Russian gunmen and Ukrainian special forces

Read: UN to hold midnight meeting as violence in east Ukraine rapidly escalates

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