Merkel says EU will punish Russia with econ sanctions if needed

BERLIN, March 20 Thu Mar 20, 2014 4:25am EDT

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BERLIN, March 20 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech in parliament that EU leaders would signal their readiness to ramp up punitive measures against Russia, including politically sensitive economic sanctions, at a summit starting on Thursday.

"The EU summit today and tomorrow will make clear that we are ready at any time to introduce phase-3 measures if there is a worsening of the situation," Merkel said.

She added that the Group of Eight format, which includes Russia, was effectively dead so long as the diplomatic showdown with Moscow continued. Russia has the presidency of the G8 and had been scheduled to hold a summit in Sochi in June. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers, Stephen Brown, Sarah Marsh; Writing by Noah Barkin)

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