EU Army deployed: Brussels ‘to send military’ to Putin’s border as Russia row spirals

Ukraine: Firefighters attend scene of plane crash in Prykarpattia

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The EU’s Political and Security Committee will discuss the details of the operation next month. The move would see EU military sent to Ukraine after a request from the Ukrainian government for “professional military education”.

The bloc has already sent a “fact-finding” mission to the country last month and is keen to consider cooperation on cybersecurity and hybrid threats.

It comes as on Monday German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron had phone calls with the presidents of Ukraine and Russia to discuss the conflict in Ukraine, and agreed their foreign ministers should meet, the German government said.

The two West European leaders spoke first with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements aimed at bringing about a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine.

Then, Ms Merkel and Mr Macron spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging him to progress with the peace talks, the German government said.

They added: “The interlocutors agreed to ask their foreign ministers to meet soon to achieve this.”

Ukraine has battled Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbass region in a conflict that Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy confirmed his phone calls with the two EU leaders on Monday.

Ukraine, France and Germany “stand for agreeing on coordinated successive steps that will ensure peace,” he wrote on Twitter.

The EU and Ukraine are also set to sign an aviation agreement at a summit in Kyiv on Tuesday that is expected to open the country to more low-cost air routes and boost tourism, according to EU officials.

The Common Civil Aviation Area Agreement will improve air connections and create new commercial opportunities for airlines in the EU and Ukraine, EU officials said on Monday without elaborating.

In Kyiv, the EU and Ukraine will seek to further strengthen economic and political ties, after striking an agreement in 2017 that gave Ukraine preferential access to the EU and has seen trade increase significantly.

They will sign additional deals boosting scientific cooperation and enabling exchanges for researchers.

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The EU will also launch a €6.5billion (£5.5billion) investment package designed to stimulate public-private investments in Ukraine, according to officials of the bloc.

Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the heads of the EU’s executive Commission and the Council representing EU member states, and President Zelenskyy will also discuss Kyiv’s concerns about a gas shortage prompted by shrinking Russian supplies.

“We will be consulting in detail with Ukraine … to determine what can be done indeed to increase the possible physical gas supply capacity from (EU) member states to Ukraine in case of shortages now and in the future,” an EU official said, referring to possible increases in the reverse flow capabilities which the EU can use to send gas to Ukraine.

Ukraine accuses Russia’s Gazprom of using energy as a weapon after the energy giant implemented a transit deal with Hungary that deprives Kyiv of gas supplies.

The agreement does not only mean that Ukraine loses transit revenues but it can no longer import reverse flow gas via Hungary, which it has been doing since 2015 as a way of not buying gas directly from Russia.

Europe is suffering from sky-rocketing gas prices as tight gas supplies meet strong demand in economies recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ukrainian ties with Moscow have been in crisis since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its backing for a separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine.

On Monday, the European Council decided to impose sanctions on eight more people – including judges, prosecutors and security officers – for enforcing Russian law in Crimea and Sevastopol, according to a statement.

The move expands the EU sanctions list to 185 persons and 48 entities which are subject to asset freezes and travel bans for violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

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