Vladimir Putin risks a further round of punitive EU economic sanctions against Russia if Moscow-backed separatists mount another large offensive in the Ukraine, UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond has said.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Hammond said the post-cold war detente between Russia and the west had soured under Putin’s presidency to the point where it now sees western countries as adversaries.
Hammond also warned that Europe faced having a “difficult, prickly relationship” with Russia for some time to come, claiming Putin believed he had “some kind of strategic veto” over the freedom of action of former Soviet states.
Hammond told Marr:
“We have all made clear that if there is a big assault, for example on Mariupol, that will be responded to with a significant increase in the economic pressure on Russia from the EU.
Asked if that could trigger a new cold war he said:
“I don’t want to talk about cold wars, but we are clear that Russia has decided, it has made the decision that it wants to be in a strategic competition with the west, with Europe."
“It doesn’t any longer see us as partners, it sees us as competitors or even adversaries and that means that we are going to have a difficult, prickly relationship with Russia probably for some time to come.”
Despite a ceasefire being in place in Ukraine, the country’s military said on Sunday one serviceman had been killed and three wounded in fighting in the past 24 hours.
A spokesman said pro-Russian rebels had continued to fire on their positions, although the intensity dropped overnight.
Hammond told Marr that under the Minsk peace plan Moscow agreed to hand back control of all Russian territory by the end of the year and could “expect the temperature to be turned up significantly” if it did not.
He also said Putin was aware of NATO’s “hard red line” protecting its Baltic members from Russian incursions.
The foreign secretary claimed the Russian president believed he had “some kind of strategic veto” over the freedom of action of former Soviet states, adding:
“That puts him, frankly, at odds with our view of the post-Soviet settlement in Europe.”
Source: The Guardian