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EU unity upsets Putin, Estonian PM says – Reuters


EU leaders have stuck to a united scenario with Vladimir Putin, thwarting the Russian president’s attempts to sow division, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told POLITICO on Thursday.

Over the past two weeks, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have met Putin in Moscow in a bid to defuse tensions over Russia’s massive military buildup along the Ukrainian border.

In each case, Kallas said, “we were consulted before these meetings took place and after.”

And according to “different sources,” Kallas added, Russia was “negatively surprised because, even though they have separate meetings, even behind closed doors, the talking points are still the same.”

The Estonian leader was speaking after an informal meeting of EU leaders to discuss their approach to Russia and the sanctions the bloc would adopt if Moscow invaded. The leaders were gathering ahead of the start of an EU summit with African Union leaders.

Kallas hailed the coordination between European countries amid the flurry of diplomatic overtures in Moscow, saying Germany and France have offered EU allies “the opportunity to focus on issues and make their point of view”. [on] how we see these things.

She added: “I think Macron is definitely listening to these issues and every leader who has been to Moscow has kept the same line.”

The EU’s course of action has been to push for dialogue with Moscow, while flatly rejecting Putin’s demands that NATO allies withdraw from Eastern Europe and guarantee that Ukraine will not join never the military alliance.

Kallas denied any suggestion that Scholz strayed from that line on a recent trip through Kyiv when he stifled talk of Ukraine’s NATO membership, saying “the issue of [Ukrainian] joining alliances is practically not on the agenda.

“What everyone has pointed out, and also Chancellor Scholz, is that we are not giving up on NATO’s open door policy,” she said, meaning everyone’s right countries to join the alliance. “We are not making any concessions on this. And that’s important.

Ahead of Thursday’s meeting of EU leaders, Kallas said he met Scholz and he “stressed that Germany is also very committed to our defence” – a commitment that comes amid criticism over Berlin’s refusal to send troops. arms to Ukraine.

Scholz’s reassurance, Kallas said, “is something we consider important.”

Scholz and Macron also recounted their meetings with Putin for EU leaders during Thursday’s meeting to ensure the 27 countries were “in the picture as well”.

The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the sanctions package the EU is assembling in case Russia launches an assault on Ukraine. Kallas said the sanctions list “is ready” and has been coordinated with the US, UK, Switzerland and Canada.

Still, diplomats have always said the biggest remaining challenge is deciding when to trigger them. After damaging cyberattacks? If Putin recognizes the independence of the disputed regions of eastern Ukraine?

“We haven’t discussed this in detail,” Kallas said. “That is discussed at more technical levels.”

Rapid sanctions in response to cyberattacks are difficult because digital attacks are difficult to assign. On the other hand, if Putin recognized the independence of the disputed regions, it would be a hard fact, easy to sanction.

“That’s why he doesn’t, he plays with it,” Kallas said.



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