An extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers from the European Union – called because of a major intensification of fighting in Ukraine – ended with a small extension of the EU’s sanctions on Russia.Crucially, the new Greek government, which a day after taking office distanced itself from an EU statement that explicitly accused Russia of aiding separatists in eastern Ukraine, decided not to break ranks with other EU states.The foreign ministers agreed immediately to prolong by six months the EU’s existing restrictions on individual Russians involved in fighting in Ukraine or promoting separatism. The sanctions, which prevent the blacklisted Russians from travelling to the EU and oblige national authorities in the EU to seize their assets, were due for review in March. They will now continue until September. The most intense discussions involved men seated in two adjacent chairs, Lithuania’s Linas Linkevičius and Greece’s Nikos Kotzias.Lithuania has called consistently and publicly for a far tougher European response, in the form of wider and more painful sanctions on Russia and military support for Ukraine.As he entered the meeting today, Linkevičius invoked the solidarity shown by EU member states after the 7 January massacres in Paris by jihadists, and contrasted it with their response to the war in Ukraine.“I am asking sometimes some colleagues who are still considering what to do, how many more people should be killed in order to say ‘Je suis ukrainien’,” he said, referring to the ‘Je suis Charlie’ slogan that rallied protestors around the world after the slaughter of Charlie Hebdo journalists.The United Nations says that over 5,000 people have now been killed in fighting that began when Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea last March. The ministers also promised to add new names to the blacklist when they meet next, on 9 February. Some countries had hoped that the blacklist would be added to today.The possibility of increasing the EU’s most significant sanctions on Russia – restrictions on business primarily in the financial, banking and defence sectors – were left, as expected, for EU national leaders to decide. The leaders of the EU’s 28 member states will meet on 12-13 February.In a second test of Greece’s alignment with the rest of the EU, the foreign ministers agreed on a description of events in Ukraine that made clear that Russia is fuelling the conflict.The final communique by the ministers noted “evidence of continued and growing support given to the separatists by Russia, which underlines Russia’s responsibility”.This exactly repeats the wording of the statement by EU national leaders on Tuesday from which the new Greek government had distanced itself.Federica Mogherini described the debate as “very constructive”.
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Global search engine, Google plans to equip one million young Africans with digital skills in the next year. The training is meant to encourage youths to start their own businesses. Julie Scheier reports