Could sanctions prod key players in Ukraine crisis?

The EU would have to move fast on sanctions before Ukrainian money is removed from foreign banks and protesters grow even more frustrated with the pace of EU support.

Sergei Chuzavkov/AP
Anti-government protesters clash with riot police outside Ukraine's parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, Feb. 18.

The Austrian finance minister’s pro-sanctions comments Wednesday lend significant weight to European Union talk of targeted freezes on Ukrainian leaders’ accounts, says our correspondent in Kiev. But the EU would have to move fast before Ukrainian money is removed from Austrian banks and protesters grow even more frustrated with the pace of EU support.

“Austria is a favorite place for Ukrainian oligarchs to launder money,” says our correspondent. “What it would take to get an EU-wide freeze on accounts, and who would be on the list of accounts, that’s another matter…. I did hear last night that oligarchs may already be shifting their accounts out of Cyprus and Austria, out of the EU, into places like the Cayman Islands. So the EU probably would have to move fast if they want this to have teeth.”

The logic for targeting the money of Ukraine’s Russian-leaning oligarchs is to soften them toward a negotiated settlement to the crisis. Other outcomes strike our correspondent as less likely. While an army intervention is bandied about, Ukraine’s military is made up of conscripts who are unlikely to shoot on their own people. The army also does not command a lot of respect in Ukraine, making it an unlikely unifier. Neither is an actual splitting of the country likely – a Ukrainian identity has solidified in the post-Soviet years. “There is something called Ukraine, there is a there there,” our correspondent says, noting linguistic ties and the fading of Russian self-identification.

Negotiations, however, face steep hurdles. One is the increased radicalization of the protesters as... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Global Outlook.

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