EU highlights Ukraine`s May 25 vote as it preps sanctions

EU foreign ministers went into talks on Ukraine Monday insisting its May 25 presidential election go ahead, as they prepared to announce new sanctions against Russians and Crimeans involved in the crisis.

Brussels: EU foreign ministers went into talks on Ukraine Monday insisting its May 25 presidential election go ahead, as they prepared to announce new sanctions against Russians and Crimeans involved in the crisis.

A further 13 people and two companies were expected to be listed as subject to a European Union asset freeze and visa ban, two EU diplomats told AFP.

Going into the talks where they are to meet current OSCE chief, Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, the ministers roundly condemned Sunday`s votes by separatists in eastern Ukraine as illegitimate, saying the only way forward was with the planned nationwide May 25 presidential vote.

"I hope we will strongly support those elections at the council today," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "In the vast majority of Ukraine there is no difficulty with the elections going ahead."

Burkhalter, who was to outline a four-point roadmap to the EU ministers, said the OSCE was planning to send 1,000 monitors to Ukraine for the vote, "one of the biggest missions" in the organisation`s history.

"It is very important that we believe that the election can take place and that we act in that direction," he said.

The OSCE chief, who held talks with Russian President Vladimir last week, said "the most important is to re-build a true dialogue among the main actors, also between Russia and the EU and Russia and the US."

"We can contribute to that," he said.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frank Timmermans said the EU would ramp up pressure on Russia and pro-Russian forces in Ukraine by agreeing new sanctions.

"We need to send a clear message," he said. "We have seen some positive words (from Putin) but no action."

The EU so far has imposed asset freezes and visa bans against 48 Russians and Ukrainians for violating or threatening Ukraine`s territorial integrity.

But depending on events on the ground, the ministers may decide to expand the legal criteria to cover cases where an individual or an entity is judged to have undermined Ukraine`s security or actively fostered instability.

They could notably add companies that have benefited from Russia`s annexation of Crimea.

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