* EU holds out threat of more sanctions
* EU member states divided over tougher sanctions
* EU to send team to advise Ukraine on police reform
(Updates with ministers' comments, statement)
By Adrian Croft and Justyna Pawlak
LUXEMBOURG, June 23 The European Union urged
Russia on Monday to back President Petro Poroshenko's peace plan
for Ukraine but its threat of tougher sanctions if Moscow failed
to do so appeared to only have partial support.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg held out the
15-point plan put forward by the new Ukrainian president as an
opportunity to defuse the crisis that has led to hundreds of
deaths and caused a confrontation between Russia and the West.
They called on Russia to "support the peace plan and to
adopt effective measures to stop the continued flow of illegal
fighters, arms and equipment over the border into Ukraine".
The ministers' statement noted the EU has been drawing up
further sanctions that could be imposed on Russia if events in
eastern Ukraine required it.
But ministers' comments again showed divisions among the
EU's 28 member states about pushing ahead with tough economic
sanctions against Russia they have been threatening since March.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said EU leaders
would weigh Russia's actions at a summit on Friday and warned
Russia that the EU was ready to impose tougher sanctions if it
was not satisfied with Moscow's response to Kiev's peace plan.
"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin should be in no doubt
that in the EU we are ready to take those measures," he said.
But Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said that
whether EU leaders adopted more sanctions against Russia on
Friday depended on developments between now and then.
"I think the need is to stimulate all parties to negotiate
and try and avoid the need to escalate the sanctions. I hope
that we can avoid that step," he said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will
travel to Kiev to meet Poroshenko on Tuesday, said he told other
EU ministers it was clear that if nothing moved in the right
direction, the question of sanctions "immediately will be in
front of our door again".
"But I've pleaded that we should concentrate on getting some
elements of Poroshenko's peace plan to work at a time when
Poroshenko showed courage with this plan," he said.
The United States has already threatened sanctions on
Russia's financial, defence and high-tech industries as more
Russian military equipment has flowed into Ukraine, and has
intensified talks with Europe over imposing similar measures.
But many of the EU's member states are wary of antagonising
their major energy supplier and concerned about Russian
retaliation if they imposed tough trade sanctions on Russia.
So far, the EU has imposed limited measures, targeting 61
people in Russia and Ukraine with asset freezes and travel bans,
as well as two energy companies in the Ukrainian peninsula of
Crimea, taken over by Moscow earlier this year.
Britain, France, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic
and the former Soviet republics in the Baltics have pushed for
tougher sanctions on Russia while Italy, Greece, Cyprus,
Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Austria, Spain, Portugal and Malta have
been among the most reluctant EU states.
Ukrainian forces began a seven-day ceasefire on Friday, as
part of the president's plan to end a rebel insurgency in the
east of the country. But on Saturday, pro-Russian separatists
attacked Ukrainian posts on the border with Russia and a
military base, government forces said.
Putin said on Saturday he supported Ukraine's ceasefire, but
added that without "practical action" to start negotiations the
plan would not be viable.
The EU ministers held talks with new Ukrainian Foreign
Minister Pavlo Klimkin who told reporters that the critical
thing was that the ceasefire became solid.
"Also critical is support from the Russian Federation and
the influence of the Russian Federation on these groups (of
rebel fighters)," he said.
Putin discussed the peace proposals with U.S. President
Barack Obama on Monday.
Ukraine is due on Friday to sign a free-trade deal with the
EU. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign
that agreement last November, prompting an uprising that brought
him down and led to Russia annexing Crimea in March.
As part of their wider response to Russian actions, EU
foreign ministers approved on Monday new rules prohibiting the
imports of goods originating in Crimea into the EU.
They also agreed to send experts to advise Ukraine on
reforms to its police and justice system. The team is expected
to be sent to Ukraine in the coming months.
Separately, a NATO official said alliance foreign ministers
meeting in Brussels later this week would discuss a proposal to
set up a "trust fund" to help strengthen Ukraine's armed forces
in the areas of logistics, command and control, communications
and cyber defence.
(Additional reporting by Tom Koerkemeier and Sabine Siebold in
Luxembourg, Julia Fioretti in Brussels and Pavel Polityuk in
Kiev; Editing by Alison Williams)