Europe Warns of New Sanctions If Russia Fails Ukraine Truce

Europe Warns of New Sanctions If Russia Fails Ukraine TruceEurope Warns of New Sanctions If Russia Fails Ukraine Truce

 European powers warned Russia it risked fresh sanctions if a ceasefire deal aimed at ending the 10-month war between Ukraine troops and pro-Moscow rebels was not implemented.

The agreement to end the nearly year-long conflict, which has killed thousands and ratcheted East-West tensions to highs not seen since the Cold War, was reached early Thursday after marathon talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk between the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, AFP reported.

Kiev and the West accuse Russia of stoking the war in ex-Soviet Ukraine by pouring arms and troops to help the pro-Russian rebels fighting Kiev government troops in Ukraine's industrial east. Moscow denies the charges.

Speaking late Thursday after a European Union summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Russia that the bloc, which has already slapped Moscow with sanctions over the crisis, was not ruling out further measures if the truce failed.

"If it works well we would be very happy to go with the agreement. If there are difficulties we wouldn't rule out other sanctions," she said.

French President Francois Hollande, who along with Merkel attended the 17-hour talks in Minsk that also included Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, agreed.

If the ceasefire deal was not respected, "we would return to a process... of sanctions that would be in addition to those already in place."

Hollande also said that the conditions were not yet right for France to resume with the delivery of two Mistral warships to Russia, a 1.2-billion-euro sale that Paris was forced to suspend over the Ukraine crisis.

Under the deal reached in Minsk, a ceasefire is to take effect at midnight Kiev time on Sunday (2200 GMT on Saturday) and heavy weapons are to be withdrawn from the frontlines of the conflict, which has killed at least 5,300 people and driven a million people from their homes since erupting in April 2014.

Poroshenko described the 17-hour talks as "very difficult" and said he expected the implementation of the deal would not be easy.

No Trust in Putin?

Brussels first imposed targeted sanctions on individuals after Russia's annexation of Crimea in March 2014 but adopted tougher economic measures after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July.

European Council President Donald Tusk said Poroshenko had given EU leaders a "sobering assessment" of the deal, and said the 28-member bloc was ready "to take the necessary steps" to keep up the pressure on Russia.

"Our trust in the goodwill of President Putin is limited, this is why we have to maintain our decision on sanctions," he told a press conference.

The United States, which has said it could supply Ukraine with weapons if the conflict continues, cautiously welcomed the peace accord, but emphasized the work yet to be done in making it stick.

"The true test of today's accord will be in its full and unambiguous implementation," the White House said, including "restoration of Ukrainian control over its border with Russia."

The Ukrainian government accused Russia of deploying another 50 tanks across the border during the talks in Minsk, with fighting expected to continue around disputed railway hub Debaltseve, which rebels claim to have surrounded.

The roadmap was signed by Russian and Ukrainian envoys, separatist leaders and European mediators from the OSCE.

A previous truce signed in Minsk last September quickly collapsed.