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EU has 'robust' Russia sanctions ready if needed for Ukraine

The European Union has prepared a "robust and comprehensive" package of sanctions to unleash on Russia if it continues its aggression towards Ukraine, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the Handeslblatt and Les Echos newspapers.

Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in the east of the country, has amassed some 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and is demanding security guarantees including a promise NATO will never admit Kyiv.

"We have prepared a robust and comprehensive package of financial and economic sanctions," von der Leyen told the papers, adding that these included "capping access to foreign capital" and "export controls, especially on technical goods."

The controversial Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline was also part of the sanctions package. Whether the pipeline can go into operation depends "on Russia's behavior," von der Leyen said.

"People close to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and oligarchs could, of course, be hit sensitively," she added.

Russia has formulated several options as an excuse to invade Ukraine, including the potential use of a propaganda video showing a staged attack, the United States said on Thursday, as the Kremlin condemned American troop deployments in the region.

The Kremlin accused Washington on Thursday of ignoring its calls to ease the standoff, a day after the United States announced it would send nearly 3,000 extra troops to Poland and Romania.

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