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The EU is getting tough on Russia. Well, kind of...

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned of a new Cold War atmosphere emerging.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE EU HAS agreed to expand its sanctions against Russia as Ukraine’s warring parties announced fresh truce talks to end a surge in fighting between Kiev and Kremlin-backed rebels.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned meanwhile that the threat of further sanctions risked turning the new Cold War atmosphere into a globally destabilising “hot” armed conflict between Moscow and the West.

During emergency talks called after dozens died in fighting in the east Ukrainian port of Mariupol, EU foreign ministers overcame reluctance from Greece’s radical new government to reach a deal to tighten sanctions.

“I cannot say I am happy that we have taken this decision because the situation on the ground is nothing to be happy about,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a press conference in Brussels.

“But the one thing I can be happy about is that we have kept our unity.”

Kiev and local officials said six civilians and five Ukrainian soldiers were killed over the previous 24 hours, adding to the UN’s confirmed death toll of 5,100 for the conflict in the former Soviet state.

The EU ministers agreed to extend, by six months until September, a series of targeted sanctions hitting more than 100 Russian and Ukrainian figures, which were introduced after the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, according to a statement after the talks.

They also agreed to come up with more names to be hit with the travel bans and asset freezes within a week.

The EU ministers further agreed to start work on further “appropriate action” if Moscow and the rebels keep breaching a largely disregarded peace deal signed in Minsk, Belarus, in September.

That could open the door for the widening of much tougher sectoral sanctionshurting the Russian economy which were introduced after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July.

Greece’s new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who is close to Russia, had raised doubts about the need for more sanctions earlier in the week, but fears that Athens could veto new measures failed to materialise.

- © AFP, 2015

Read: Russian ex-spy may have been poisoned TWICE

Also: Russia blames a US conspiracy as its debt is rated as junk

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