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  • 5 September 2014, 11:35

Nato Leaders To Unveil Tough Russia Sanctions

Tough new measures designed to halt Russian aggression in Ukraine are due to be unveiled by leaders at the Nato summit in Wales, amid fresh clashes in the ongoing conflict.

The United States and European Union will announce a new round of co-ordinated economic sanctions against Russia, US and British government sources have reported.

As talks continue in an effort to achieve a ceasefire, measures imposed on Moscow will include constraints on some of the country's all-important energy firms and travel restrictions.

But it comes amid reports of further fighting to the east of the port of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, hours before Ukrainian, Russian and European envoys are expected to back a peace plan and a ceasefire.

Mayor of Mariupol, Yuri Khotlubey, told Ukraine's 112 TV channel: "Our artillery has come and is being deployed against the (pro-Russian) rebels."

Leaders at the summit in Newport have continued talks after watching a fly-past by British fighter jets and the Red Arrows aerobatic team.

But Sky News' Kate Stallard, who is on eastern city limits of Mariupol, said "deep, loud explosions" continued to be heard.

"That show of strength from Nato over South Wales does nothing whatsoever to reassure people here, who are watching shells landing, now about five kilometers east of their city," she said.

"You have to understand how terrifying this is for people who are living in this city. I don't think they will have any faith whatsoever in any of the political sentiment that's being expressed by European leaders today.

"We are hearing heavy shelling, which sounds like it's closer to the city now.

"We can also see smoke rising to the north of the city and there are reports of further shelling to the north and to the west. It would seem that there is something of a push from at least two directions on to the city.

"This is happening several hours ahead of what would be a ceasefire, which in itself may be why this is happening. It's not unusual to see a concerted push in the run up to a ceasefire as both sides try to consolidate their ground."

A commander of a Ukrainian volunteer militia based in Mariupol told Reuters news agency: "We were under fire all night but we are still keeping the rebels at bay. They are facing us with tanks and artillery."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenkosaid around 2,000 Russian servicemen had been killed so far in the conflict, citing intelligence data.

Western leaders accuse Russia of sending thousands of troops into the east of the country.

But Britain's Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, told Sky News: "We are clear that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict in Ukraine.

"There had to be a political solution. Russia has to honour its international obligations, end this armed intervention ... go back across its borders, stopping supplying the separatists, stop firing rockets and missiles and artillery shells into the Ukraine and then enter into a proper dialogue with (Ukrainian) President Poroshenko about how the two countries are going to live in peace."

He said sanctions were an "effective tool" to use against Russia.

"If Russia ends up in an economic war with the West, it will lose," he said.

Nato Secretary General Anders FoghRasmussen has warned that Russia's incursion poses the most serious security threat to Europe since the Cold War, although Moscow has consistently denied direct military involvement.

Nato is also expected to finalise plans for a Rapid Reaction Force that can deploy to Eastern Europe on 48 hours notice.

This will include pre-positioning logistic and planning support in Baltic countries, and the provision vital equipment.

Nato insists this does not breach a 1997 agreement not to create permanent bases near the Russian border.

The announcements will come a day after British Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama and other senior Nato leaders met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Mr Poroshenkoannounced plans to order a ceasefire, provided a peace plan is agreed during separate talks in Minsk, attended by representatives from Ukraine, Russia and pro-Russian rebel forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also expressed hopes a truce will come into force later, two days after he unveiled his own seven-point peace plan.

Alongside Ukraine, Nato leaders are also using the final day of the summit to discuss the threat posed by Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria.

Mr Obama is trying to bring together a coalition of nations and it is becoming increasingly likely the UK will authorise airstrikes against IS in northern Iraq.

But for any operation to be effective, it needs the support and involvement of countries in the region.

Nato is encouraging Iraq to request training support for its military although it will not go further and involve itself in a combat mission.

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