Rutte says Ukrainian leader supports EU sanctions
Prime Minister Mark Rutte claimed that the beleaguered Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was pleased with the European Union's sanctions against Russia and the support for his country. Even though the EU has not yet responded to his urgent plea to cut off Russia from international payment transactions system and punish President Vladimir Putin personally. According to Rutte, the EU will look further into those punitive measures in the coming period, in addition to the "unprecedented sanctions package" that launched on Thursday.
Zelensky addressed Rutte and the other EU leaders on Thursday evening at a scheduled summit about the Russian invasion of his country. Later in the evening, he told his compatriots in a televised speech that he was disappointed that Ukraine was on its own.
Zelensky "respects very much what we wall do," Rutte said. The Ukrainian President knows that the EU countries will not come to his aid by force of arms, but "we are helping in every other way we can." EU leaders have also reaffirmed their awareness of Ukraine's fervent desire to join the union, Rutte said. "That is also appreciated."
The President, who joined the meeting in a call from Kyiv "from a kind of bunker" in a green army shirt, made "an enormous impression" on Rutte and his colleagues, the Prime Minister said. "He is an impressive man. A man who shows leadership, who is there at very difficult moments, and who keeps the peace."
Rutte does not know whether Zelensky and the Ukrainians will notice the effect of the new sanctions. "But it will definitely affect Russia, the oligarchs, the people with economic interests at the top of the social ladder." The Prime Minister, who has been involved in Brussels for 12 years, said he had never experienced such severe punitive measures before. "And we know from the recent past that sanction packages will eventually have an effect."
The EU leaders agreed on a new package of tough sanctions that will have "enormous and serious consequences" for Russia, they said after the meeting in Brussels. The sanctions affect, among other things, "the financial sector and the energy and transport sector." Trade with Russia in goods that can also be used militarily is restricted. Traveling to the EU will be made difficult for some Russians. They can no longer use any assets placed in the union and are no longer allowed to enter the EU. EU citizens and companies are also no longer allowed to do business with them.
It will not stop at these sanctions, the EU leaders threatened. They will soon present a third package, which will also affect Russian ally Belarus. That country serves as one of the bases for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The sanctions, which broadly correspond to measures taken by other Western countries, also send a message, Rutte said. "A signal that the whole world is united" in resistance to Russian "aggression."
According to sources, EU countries like Italy and Germany were against denying Russia access to the payment system SWIFT. According to Rutte, the negative consequences of such a step must first be investigated. Putin is escaping personal sanctions not to hinder the possible resumptions of talks on a diplomatic solution.
Three more explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv at dawn on Friday, according to CNN. The city council of Kyiv warned residents of possible airstrikes on Friday morning. "Go to the nearest shelter immediately," a message on the municipality's site read. Local and international media correspondents report that the air-raid siren in the city repeatedly sounds.
The mayor of Kyiv reported that rocket impact damaged an apartment building in the city. At least three people were reportedly injured.
Witnesses also told Reuters that the air raid siren is sounding in the city of Lviv in the west of the country. Multiple Western countries, including the Netherlands, moved their embassies to Lviv earlier this month. There are no immediate reports of explosions.
Zelensky said that the Russian missile strikes on Friday morning are not only aimed at military targets. The attacks also target civilian locations, the Ukrainian President said in a televised speech. According to the President, the rocket attacks started at around 4:00 a.m. local time. He said that Russian forces had been successfully held back in most directions. This cannot be verified. According to CNN, US officials reported that Russian troops had approached more than 30 kilometers towards the capital, Kyiv, from Belarus.
Reporting by ANP.