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ATHENS, April 4 Europe should press ahead with
drawing up tough economic sanctions against Russia because
Moscow has not reduced tensions over Ukraine, British Foreign
Secretary William Hague said on Friday.
Hague, arriving for a meeting of European Union foreign
ministers in Athens, said very large numbers of Russian forces
remained on Ukraine's eastern border. There had been only a
"token withdrawal" of those forces so far and the situation
remained very dangerous, he said.
"We haven't seen real de-escalation by Russia and therefore
Europe must not relax in preparing a third tier of sanctions and
making sure we continue to have a strong and united response,"
he said, referring to tough trade and economic measures that the
EU has threatened to take against Russia if it moves beyond
Crimea into southern and eastern Ukraine.
At the meeting in the Greek capital, Hague and his EU
counterparts will discuss new ways the European Union can help
Ukraine overcome its conflict with Russia, and discuss how the
bloc can approach its neighbours to the east and south more
They are not expected to make any decisions but could look
at possible new sanctions against Russia and how the EU can help
Kiev benefit from the EU's 11-billion-euro ($15 billion) aid
package announced in recent weeks.
Hague said it was too early for the EU's 28 governments to
bolster sanctions against Moscow for now. "But they have to be
ready because the situation remains very dangerous," he said.
Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea has
greatly strained its relations with Europe and is raising
questions about the bloc's long-term policy towards Moscow and
as well as about the EU's ability to support stability in the
($1 = 0.7291 Euros)
(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak in Athens and Adrian Croft in
Brussels; Editing by Robin Emmott and Toby Chopra)