British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says he has detected no change in Russian President Vladimir Putin's strategic intentions towards Ukraine. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Sunday (March 8) he had detected no change in Russian President Vladimir Putin's strategic intentions towards Ukraine, despite a reduction in violence following the Minsk ceasefire agreement. "There has been a reduction in violence since the new agreement was signed but I don't detect that Mr. Putin's strategic intentions have changed," he said in an interview on BBC television. "So this is just a question now about what tools he uses to achieve those objectives and we are all hoping that there will be a reduction and a continued reduction in violence and we have all made clear that if there is a big assault, for example on Mariupol, that will be responded to with a significant increase in the economic pressure on Russia from the EU," he added. The peace deal between Moscow and Kiev was agreed on February 12. While violence continues in eastern Ukraine despite the ceasefire, OSCE head Lamberto Zannier has said the level of hostilities had fallen and some heavy arms had been removed. Russia denies accusations by Ukraine and Western governments that it has been sending troops and weapons to support separatists. The EU has joined the United States in imposing sanctions on Russia but found it increasingly difficult to agree on tougher measures as many member states rely heavily on Russia for energy. The truce has eased pressure for new sanctions, but the EU must decide soon whether to extend current economic curbs on Russia that expire in July.