The unpredictable crisis: EU will not impose sanctions, as yet. Lavrov pledges commitment to diplomacy with Di Maio, then expels US deputy ambassador

Brussels, 17 Feb 2022 – This morning while the latest effort of diplomacy was going on in Moscow, shells hit the city of Stanytsia Luhanska, in the pro-Russian separatist region of Donbass, east Ukraine. A kindergarten was hit and photos of the destroyed building show kids risked their lives.

Later the EU chief of diplomacy Josep Borrell Fontelles reckoned “the bombing has begun in some parts of the border” in eastern Ukraine, but stated that the EU countries will not approve the sanctions against Russia until that “the level of intensity of the aggression requires it” he said as reported by EFE Noticias.

The question now is how many artillery strikes must hit civilians in the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in order for the international community to approve sanctions?

Right with regard to sanctions, this morning the Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said during his meeting in Moscow with his homologue: “Everybody knows Italy’s stance with regard to sanctions imposition, defence of international law and strong belonging to European legal structures’. “We are working all together – he said – to avert imposition of sanctions through a diplomatic solution and that’s is also the reason of my visit”.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavorv tried to bring the good faith statement to Russia’s own advantage reminding EU applies the consensus mechanism in the vote on sanctions. “How Italy will behave in case of vote on sanction is not a correct question” said Lavrov replying to journalists after the press conference – sanctions cannot be approved if at least one country will oppose them”. “I don’t believe Italy is interested in fueling tensions” he hindered in view of possible vote on EU sanctions on Russia.

Foreign Ministers Luigi Di Maio (Italy) with Sergey Lavrov (Russia) in a press conference in Moscow 17 Feb. 2022 – Photo

“Based on what Lavrov told me – said Di Maio – there’s full availability from Russia to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis and also considering what I was told in Kiev by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba there’s the commitment’ of both parties to find a diplomatic solution”.

Di Maio also said on Tuesday “during the visit in Kyiv with Kuleba I was told about concerns of Ukraine about possible act of destabilisation through hybrid means”, without specifying further which indirect or invisible actors might operate in the crisis and what means these might use.

The unpredictability of Russia in this crisis is, in itself, an element of strong destabilisation. The relatively positive meeting with the Italian Foreign Minister, the upcoming Putin-Draghi, confirmed by the Italian PM today, were followed by the expulsion of the vice chief of US diplomacy in Moscow, the news of the shelling in the Donbass region which put at risk the lives of children in a kindergarten and by the dramatic UN Security Council where Russian deputy foreign minister accused Ukraine of non respecting the Minsk agreement. All this make any Russian formal commitment to diplomacy totally unreliable. On top of that the photos showing troops, aircrafts, helicopters, tanks still at Ukrainian borders, while the Kremlin states that “withdrawal takes time”.