MILAN (AP) — European Union foreign ministers on Friday were set to weigh adopting a tougher stance on the Ukraine crisis amid increasing calls to beef up economic sanctions against Russia.
The meeting of the EU's 28 top diplomats in Milan came a day after NATO said Russia has already slipped about 1,000 soldiers and much heavy weaponry into Ukraine, a development that funneled fears of a wider invasion.
The United States and the EU have imposed sanctions against dozens of Russian officials, several firms and the country's financial industry. Moscow has retaliated by banning food imports. President Barack Obama said Thursday Russia's support for rebel combatants in eastern Ukraine must incur "more costs and consequences."
However, the EU ministers weren't expected to make a decision on new sanctions. Instead, their discussions were set to prepare possible further steps that could be announced at a summit of the bloc's 28 leaders Saturday.
In what appeared to be a last-minute bid for more support and tougher action on Russia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is set to meet the head of the EU's executive Commission, President Jose Manuel Barroso, and summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels Saturday a few hours before the summit.
New EU sanctions against Russia would have to be agreed unanimously — a requirement that has in the past blocked tougher action as some nations fear the economic fallout of sanctions. Russia is the EU's third-largest trading partner and one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers.
The fighting between Ukrainian military forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has already claimed at least 2,200 lives, according to U.N. figures.
The two-day foreign ministers' meeting was also set to feature discussion about the situation in Gaza and the crises engulfing Syria and Iraq.
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