EU ministers: Sanctions if Russia won't cooperate

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Photo - British Foreign Secretary William Hague addressees the media upon arrival at the EU foreign ministers council at the European Council headquarters in Luxembourg city, Luxembourg, Monday, June 23, 2014. EU foreign ministers will discuss the situation in Ukraine and Iraq. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
British Foreign Secretary William Hague addressees the media upon arrival at the EU foreign ministers council at the European Council headquarters in Luxembourg city, Luxembourg, Monday, June 23, 2014. EU foreign ministers will discuss the situation in Ukraine and Iraq. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
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BRUSSELS (AP) — Several European foreign ministers on Monday threatened to impose further sanctions against Russia if it fails to cooperate with Ukraine's proposed peace plan and doesn't stop the flow of arms and militants across its border into eastern Ukraine.

Russia is "conducting a propaganda war with full speed ahead and no signs of them closing the border," said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

Armed militants and even tanks continue to cross the border into eastern Ukraine, he asserted. "If the Russians say they don't know how to close borders, I don't think that's a particularly credible statement," Bildt added.

In a joint statement, the European Union ministers urged Russia to withdraw its troops massed near the Ukrainian border and revoke the parliamentary authorization for the use of force on its neighbor's soil.

The EU also decided to ban imports of most products from the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in April. Separately, the ministers also gave the green light for an EU mission to help reform Ukraine's police and judiciary.

The EU and the United States have so far mainly ordered visa bans and asset freezes for a number of officials but have refrained from imposing broader economic sanctions.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the EU will be able to agree on further sanctions against Russia at a summit of the bloc's 28 leaders Friday, if necessary. "Those measures are ready to take," he said.

"We look to Russia to take actual action to stop the flow of arms over the border into eastern Ukraine, to encourage illegal armed groups to stop what they are doing there now," Hague said.

The meeting in Luxembourg was attended by Ukraine's new foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, who briefed his colleagues on the peace plan proposed by President Petro Poroshenko. It includes a cease-fire in its battle against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The plan also calls for an inclusive political dialogue, suggests a decentralization of power to give regions more political authority and foresees measures to protect the language rights of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.

But Ukraine's government is accusing the pro-Russian rebels of violating the cease-fire by firing on Ukrainian troops.

"The militants and terrorists are continuing their armed attacks, calling (for people) to violate the cease-fire conditions," it said in a statement late Sunday.

Foreign Minister Klimkin said Kiev was doing everything within in its means to implement the peace plan, but Russia also needs to sign up to it.

"We believe the implementation of this plan is also in Russia's interest," he said in Luxembourg. "De-escalation of the situation is really critical."

Reacting to Poroshenko's plan, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday expressed support for the cease-fire and called on both sides to negotiate.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday during a visit to Armenia that Moscow supports the initiative to launch a political dialogue in Ukraine as the only way to "guarantee the equal rights and freedom of citizens in all regions of the country."

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David McHugh in Kiev and Avet Demourian in Yerevan, Armenia contributed reporting.

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Follow Juergen Baetz on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jbaetz

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