EU Commission chief warns Russia of tougher sanctions in Ukraine conflict

EU Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen makes a speech on eve of 30th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall on Nov. 8, 2019. (AFP Photo)

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday threatened Russia with tougher sanctions if the Ukraine conflict escalates.

“We have prepared a robust and comprehensive package of financial and economic sanctions,” von der Leyen told Handelsblatt, a business newspaper in Germany.

This includes the “cutting off of access to foreign capital” and “export controls, especially technical goods,” she added.

The EU Commission chief stressed that the aim is to make the “Russian economy even more fragile.“

The controversial Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline is also part of the sanctions package, she said, adding that Europe cannot “take Nord Stream 2 off the table in view of the sanctions, that’s very clear.”

Von der Leyen also expressly did not rule out economic penalties against Russia’s head of state Vladimir Putin. “Of course, people close to Putin and oligarchs could be hit hard,” she said.

The EU is also preparing a technology embargo. “It’s about high-tech components that Russia cannot simply replace, for example in the field of artificial intelligence and armaments, in quantum computers, lasers and in space travel,” she explained.

In the West, there have been fears of an imminent military invasion for weeks because of the deployment of Russian soldiers in the border area with Ukraine. Moscow denies planning such a step.

Ukraine and Russia have been locked in conflict since hostilities broke out in the eastern Donbas region in 2014 after Moscow illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula.