Russian flag and the flag of the Donetsk region were seen behind a statue of Lenin above the occupied regional administration building in Slaviansk, Ukraine, 14 April 2014. The pro-Russian activists occupying state institutions in eastern Ukraine said 14 April that they will not heed an ultimatum by the government in Kiev: photo - EPA/ROMAN PILIPE
Following a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxemburg on Monday, foreign ministers released a statement condemning "actions undertaken by armed individuals in cities of eastern Ukraine" and agreed to expand a list of Russians and Ukrainians targeted by asset freezes and visa bans.
Russia is reported to have around 40,000 troops near Ukraine's border and is believed to have supported pro-Russian groups seizing police stations and government buildings in cities in eastern Ukraine.
"[A]ny further steps by the Russian Federation to destabilize the situation in Ukraine would lead to additional and far reaching consequences for relations in a broad range of economic areas" between the EU and Russia, the statement says.
Earlier on Monday, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters the EU must now agree how the list of travel bans and asset freezes against Russian and Ukrainian individuals linked to the unrest in Ukraine could be expanded.
"The EU has to make it clear to Russia what are the consequences of any possible future actions in eastern Ukraine," he said. "I expect a very specific signal when we can expect sanctions if Russia takes further steps."
"The Council notes that the preparatory work by the Commission and Member States is underway on possible targeted measures, as requested by the European Council in March so that further steps can be taken should events require," the foreign ministers' statement says.
It was clear during the meeting on Monday, however, that while the UK plus Poland, and other member states from the CEE region were pushing for tougher sanctions against Russia, other states were urging caution.
Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's foreign minister, said sanctions wouldn't "resolve the problem" and pointed to the meeting of foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, the EU and the US on Thursday in Geneva where compromise could be found to the escalating situation in eastern Ukraine.
"Our main task today is to do everything so that this conference on Thursday in Geneva can take place and take place in a calm atmosphere," he said.
The foreign ministers agreed some steps to help Ukraine overcome its deepening economic crisis, approving a package of nearly 500 million euros worth of trade benefits, which include the removal of duties on a wide range of agricultural goods, textiles and other imports.
Four Ukrainians were also reported to have been added to a list of people targeted with EU sanctions over misappropriation of state funds, Reuters reports.
Ukraine dominated Monday's talks among EU foreign ministers after Kiev threatened military action against pro-Russian separatists occupying government buildings in the east.
An emergency summit of EU leaders could be convened next week if Thursday's talks fail to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine.
President Timofti (left) and President Komorowski in Warsaw toast Moldova signing EU agreement in June: photo - PAP/Jacek Turczyk
Meanwhile, Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski had talks with Moldovan head of state Nicolae Timofti, currently on a two-day visit to Poland.
Moldova, much to Russia's displeasure, is to sign an associate agreement with the EU in June, and President Komorowski offered the former ex-Soviet state, which also has a Russian minority wanting to form closer relations with Moscow, assistance in local government reform.
Komorowski said the visit of President Timofti to Warsaw was ""a great opportunity to reiterate our support for the prompt signing of an [EU] association deal".
On Tuesday President Timofti visits Poland's textile manufacturing centre of Lodz. (pg)