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ATHENS, April 4 (Reuters) - 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 effectively.
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 region. ($1 = 0.7291 Euros) (Reporting by Justyna Pawlak in Athens and Adrian Croft in Brussels; Editing by Robin Emmott and Toby Chopra)