Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) (March 5, 2014) — Western powers increased pressure on Russia Wednesday to talk to the new government in Kiev in a bid to ease tensions over Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine’s Crimea region.
Russia has been warned that possible sanctions will be on the agenda when European Union leaders meet Thursday in Brussels, Belgium, if no progress is made in ending the high-stakes showdown.
But such measures may not only hurt Russia. In a tit-for-tat move, Russian lawmakers are drafting a law that would allow Russia to confiscate assets belonging to U.S. and European companies if sanctions are slapped on Moscow, Russian state media reported.
The diplomatic maneuvers come as world leaders meet in Paris for talks that were intended to focus on Lebanon. Instead, Ukraine will likely dominate the agenda.
Russian forces remain in effective control of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula where Russia has a large naval base, in a tense standoff with Ukrainian forces loyal to the new interim government in Kiev.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, are due to hold crucial bilateral talks later in the day.
Meanwhile, a “brief and informal discussion” has already taken place on the sidelines of the meeting between Kerry, Lavrov, Britain’s William Hague, France’s Laurent Fabius and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a senior State Department official said.
But Hague said what happens at the EU meeting on sanctions “will be partly determined by Russia’s willingness to sit down with Ukraine.”