17:03 GMT04 March 2021
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    The foreign ministers of 28 EU countries will sit down for talks in Luxembourg later on Monday to discuss possible new sanctions targeting Russia over its alleged use of chemical weapons and hacking activity; they will also address cooperation with former Soviet countries in Europe and the Caucasus region via the Eastern Partnership program.

    New Sanctions Regime

    During the Luxembourg gathering, the EU's foreign ministers are expected to adopt new sanctions related to the use and creation of chemical weapons.

    Speaking on conditions of anonymity, one of EU officials earlier told reporters that "this legislative framework will allow the European Union to impose sanctions on individuals and companies involved in the development and use of chemical weapons, regardless of their nationality or location."

    READ MORE: UK, Netherlands Push for New Cyber Sanctions Amid Accusations Against Russia

    The mechanism was launched after the last EU summit, where participants called for adopting restrictive measures aimed at combating the proliferation of chemical weapons.

    This decision was taken shortly after an emergency session of the Organization for Proliferation of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was convened in connection with the Skripal case and alleged use of chemical weapons by government forces in Syria.

    Russia vehemently denies the US and the UK accusations of its involvement in the alleged poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK town of Salisbury in March.

    READ MORE: US Anti-Russia Sanctions Policy Causes Annoyance at Home, Among Allies – AmCham

    In late August, Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad recalled that Syria "got rid of the chemical arsenal in 2013", stressing that his country "never used and will not use chemical weapons.

    A Cyber Attack on the OPCW

    A source in the EU Council told journalists that the European Union is currently considering the creation of a new mechanism to slap sanctions against those responsible for cyberattacks.

    At the same time, he stressed there will be no final decisions on the matter during the Monday meeting, where "several countries may just raise the issue of cyberattacks on the OPCW and discuss the reaction and follow-up actions."

    READ MORE: EU Approves Prolonging Anti-Russia Sanctions by Six Months – Source

    Earlier this month, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said that the country's intelligence had thwarted a hacking attack on the OPCW which was allegedly carried out by four Russian citizens.

    A Russian Foreign Ministry source, for its part, stated that there were no and there can't be any attacks on the OPCW on behalf of Russia, because Moscow already has access to the organization's files.

    The source slammed the Dutch accusations as "an example of some Western states' policies reaching the point of bigotry," noting that Western "spy mania is gaining momentum."

    Eastern Partnership Program

    Additionally, the EU foreign ministers will hold talks with representatives of the six countries of the Eastern Partnership program, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. They will be chaired by the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

    "This meeting will provide an opportunity to resume the political dialogue between the European Union and its 'Eastern partners', " a source in the EU told reporters, adding that EU foreign ministers will also discuss the implementation of commitments made by the sides during the Eastern Partnership summit in November 2017.

    READ MORE: EU's Anti-Russia Sanctions Need Discussion Rather Than Prolongation – Budapest

    "It was all about achieving a stronger economy and management as well as strengthening mutual ties. We see progress in the economy, which unfortunately is not the case with the sphere related to the rule of law," the source added.

    The Eastern Partnership is an initiative of the EU to govern its relations and discussions with post-Soviet states in Europe (except the Baltic countries, which are EU members) and the Caucasus region. Initiated and worked out by Poland and Sweden, the project was first presented in 2008.


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