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AKIPRESS.COM - The United States and the European Union were Monday readying fresh sanctions against Russia amid rising tensions over the kidnapping of international observers by protesters in Ukraine. The West blames Russia of rising tensions in the so-called “pro-Russian” country's east, Haveeru reported.
The EU said top officials from its 28 member states would meet Monday seeking to adopt an additional list of sanctions, likely to include asset freezes and travel bans.
European powers are working in tandem with the United States and the rest of the G7 group of leading economies which agreed over the weekend to impose new sanctions on Russia after Kiev accused Moscow of seeking to trigger a “third world war.”
The G7 grouping includes U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Italy as well as Canada and Japan.
U.S. President Barack Obama stressed on an Asian tour the need for a unified response to isolate Russia.
The US and EU have already targeted Russia with visa and asset freezes and imposed sanctions on a key Russian bank.
In Ukraine, protesters presented a captured team of international observers as “prisoners of war” on Sunday, further raising the stakes in the crisis.
The self-styled mayor of rebel-held Slavyansk, which has become the epicenter of the crisis, led eight European members of an OSCE military inspection mission before scores of local and foreign journalists in the town hall.
With four armed rebels watching over him, a spokesman for the group, German officer Axel Schneider, said the team was in good health and stressed they were “OSCE officers with diplomatic status.”
OSCE chairman and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter condemned the kidnappings, saying his organization was working “at all levels” to secure their release.
The local rebel leader, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, earlier told reporters: “In our town, where a war situation is going on, any military personnel who don't have our permission are considered prisoners of war.”
The detention of the OSCE men sparked global outrage amid the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Meanwhile, Russia has said it will take steps to secure the European inspectors' freedom but has blamed Kiev for their capture, stressing it was up to the host country to ensure their security.
The rebels have accused the team – which also included five Ukrainians, one of whom was later released – of being “NATO spies” and said they would only be freed as part of a prisoner swap.