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EU Rejects Crimean Vote, Weighs Sanctions Against Russia

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And as Eleanor just told Renee, the government in Kiev says the world is with them, and not with Russia.

Let's bring in NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson into this conversation. She's in Berlin. She's been monitoring the European reaction to the vote in Crimea.

And Soraya, as we mentioned, the EU, like the United States, threatening sanctions against Russia. EU foreign ministers are actually meeting today to draw some up and take a vote. What exactly are these sanctions?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: They involve targeted sanctions aimed at certain Russian officials and pro-Moscow leaders in Ukraine, who the Europeans are blaming for this crisis. And if Russia doesn't enter into dialogue with the new Ukrainian government and stop stirring up his pro-Russian elements in Ukraine's east and south, more sweeping sanctions will likely be imposed by EU leaders, who will meet in Brussels on Thursday.

Because the concern here isn't just what happened with Crimea, but that Russia may have far more sweeping - excuse me, territorial ambitions, and that they'll try and force other parts of Ukraine to secede.

GREENE: Well, have these European leaders, ministers, gotten any sort of reaction from the Russian government in response to the threat of these sanctions?

NELSON: Well, they aren't budging, as far as we can see. Officials in Russia are threatening a tit-for-tat approach, saying that they'll impose their own sanctions on the West if sanctions are imposed on them. So you have many businesses and economic - excuse me, officials across Europe who are worrying that this growing list of sanctions are going to hurt not only Russia, but Europe.

GREENE: Well, what could be impact be? I mean, not just on Russia, but on Europe. How could this affect the Europeans?

NELSON: Many economists say that Russia would - I'm sorry, would lose the most, ultimately, because of its heavy dependence on European trade. But there's also going to damage the Europe because of its heavy reliance on Russian gas, among other things. Germany alone gets about a third of its gas from Russia and has some 6,000 companies that do trade with the country to the tune of $100 million annually or more.

GREENE: Oh. So those relationships are very important, not just for Russia, but for Europe as well, it sounds like.

NELSON: Absolutely.

GREENE: Well, you know, there have been conversations going on, I mean, between Russia and the United States, between Europeans and the Kremlin. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone yesterday. I mean, are there any signs that there are some places where they can agree in this standoff?

NELSON: Well, according to Merkel's spokesman, there actually was a small area of agreement yesterday in what otherwise was a very dismal conversation, if you will. The chancellor was calling for more international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, as it's more commonly referred to, on having those international observers sent to Eastern Ukraine.

And according to her spokesman, the - apparently, that is something that Putin was in favor of, President Putin was in favor of. And so that's just something that could be decided as early as today. And Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said a short time ago that those observers need to go now, and not next week or their week thereafter, because there are fears in Europe that it will be too late.

GREENE: And just really briefly, Soraya, I mean, it sounded like, from what Eleanor was saying, some very tough language from Ukraine's government talking about having their military ready. There's been this talk of sanctions from European countries, but nothing about any sort of military action up until this point.

NELSON: Yeah, they're very reluctant about that here. Certainly in Germany, they just do not want military action. And, in fact, many Europeans are still against sanctions. So that's a very delicate line that officials here need to tread. I don't foresee any military action being called for from the Europe in the foreseeable future.

GREENE: All right. We've been talking to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who is speaking to us from Berlin. And you'll hear more of our reporting on Ukraine in the days ahead, here on MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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