Europe escalates measures against Russia with flight bans and weapons for Ukraine.

Europe escalates measures against Russia with flight bans and weapons for Ukraine.

BRUSSELS — European countries under the banner of the European Union banded together for the first time to finance the provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine, in what the bloc’s top official called “a watershed moment.”

“For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive branch, said Sunday. She spoke ahead of a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers intended to hash out details of a raft of new sanctions and other measures aimed at Russia.

Ms. von der Leyen also announced a total closure of E.U. airspace to Russian aircraft.

The measure, she said, will exclude not just Russian airlines but also Russian-chartered private jets from all 27 member states’ airspaces, practically banning Russians from European skies. A number of countries had started announcing individual airspace closures on Saturday.

The bloc will also take steps to bar RT, the Kremlin-funded global broadcaster, as well as Sputnik, a news agency, from European airwaves, Ms. von der Leyen said.

“We will ban in the E.U. the Kremlin’s media machine,” she said. “The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to saw division in our Union.”

Ms. von der Leyen said the bloc would also start developing fresh sanctions against Belarus, which has emerged as the key proxy and assistant for the invasion of Ukraine.

In an unusually emotive statement, Ms. von der Leyen, a German politician and former defense minister who is appointed to her E.U. role, not elected, was effusive in her praise of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and said Ukrainians were welcome to seek refuge in the E.U.

“President Zelensky’s leadership and his bravery, and the resilience of the Ukrainian people are outstanding and impressive,” she said. “They are an inspiration to us all.”

“We welcome with open arms those Ukrainians who have to flee from Putin’s bombs,” she said, “and I am proud of the warm welcome that Europeans have given them.”

Ms. von der Leyen’s announcements still needed to be approved formally and put into effect by the individual E.U. member states, following the normal decision-making structure of the bloc which is a club of sovereign states, not a federation.

Leave a Reply