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Germany and Italy are among nations trying to block more Russian sanctions in a bid to protect their own economies, despite pressure from Poland and the Baltic states that are right on Putin’s doorstep. 

The Russian President yesterday claimed Western ‘attempts to have global dominance’ are coming to an end as he slammed sanctions imposed because the EU ‘doesn’t want a strong and sovereign Russia’.

But the bloc is now beginning to split into ‘three sides’ as Germany – with support from Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece – is accused of ‘openly putting the brakes on’ sanctions amid concern about the impact on its own economy.

It comes as pro-sanction countries, led by Poland and the Baltic states, are pushing for further and stronger restrictions against Russia and key oligarchs.

An internal battle within the EU is now raging between the ‘Sanctionistas’, countries that are pro-sanctions, and the Contras – countries prioritising their own economies. 

One EU diplomat told The Times: ‘It’s becoming clearer by the day that three sides are forming: Poland and the Baltic states, known as the Sanctionistas that want more and stronger sanctions; Germany, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria — the Contras — that prioritise their own economic interests; and the rest.’ 

The EU issued a fourth round of sanctions on Tuesday, but Germany is understood to have subsequently used meetings with at least three other governments to discuss calling a halt to further measures.

Instead, the Contras has suggested the bloc focus on ‘closing loopholes’ as opposed to imposing any further sanctions.

At least four yachts and a private jet owned by sanctioned Russians or their families have escaped the grasp of European officials in recent weeks, a Daily Mail investigation can reveal

A man collects debris outside a damaged housing block after it was hit by debris from a downed rocket in Kyiv on Thursday

A man collects debris outside a damaged housing block after it was hit by debris from a downed rocket in Kyiv on Thursday

A man collects debris outside a damaged housing block after it was hit by debris from a downed rocket in Kyiv on Thursday

A residential building destroyed by shelling in the village of Krasylivka, in the Kyiv region of Ukraine

A residential building destroyed by shelling in the village of Krasylivka, in the Kyiv region of Ukraine

A residential building destroyed by shelling in the village of Krasylivka, in the Kyiv region of Ukraine

Poland, though, is furious that sanctions agreed earlier this week did not include metals oligarch Oleg Deripaska due to the potential impact it would have on aluminum production in Germany and other countries. 

It comes days after a Russian attack on a military base just 12 miles from the Polish border in which at least nine people were killed and dozens more injured. 

But the Contras moved to weaken a ban on new investment in joint energy ventures with Russian companies such as Gazprom and Rosneft.

Instead, a ‘winding down’ delay of six months was agreed.  

Berlin has also secured exemptions on transactions that are said to be ‘strictly necessary’ to purchase, import and transport various metals including titanium, aluminium and copper.

The agreements, though, have been met with dismay among the Sanctionista countries on the border with Russia and Ukraine amid concerns over their proximity to the conflict.  

It comes as the bombardment of Ukrainian cities contiues despite US officials estimating that at least 7,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the fighting and a further 14,000 to 21,000 wounded in action.  

Kyiv was struck by missiles in the early hours of Thursday, with wreckage of one shot down rocket striking a 16-storey apartment block and killing one person.

Mariupol, the heavily besieged city in the south of Ukraine, also continued to come under heavy fire as city officials estimated that at least 2,400 people have now been killed there – though mayoral adviser Petro Andriushchenko said the true toll could be as high as 20,000 once cut-off areas have been searched for victims.  

Andriushchenko spoke even before a theatre in the city housing up to 1,200 civilians was struck and destroyed by Russian forces Wednesday evening – despite having signs that said ‘kids’ in Russian positioned outside it. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Receives applause before he addresses the German Bundestag via live video from the embattled city of Kyiv on Tuesday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Receives applause before he addresses the German Bundestag via live video from the embattled city of Kyiv on Tuesday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Receives applause before he addresses the German Bundestag via live video from the embattled city of Kyiv on Tuesday

A member of the Ukrainian military walks among debris in front of a residential building that was hit by an intercepted missile on Thursday

A member of the Ukrainian military walks among debris in front of a residential building that was hit by an intercepted missile on Thursday

A member of the Ukrainian military walks among debris in front of a residential building that was hit by an intercepted missile on Thursday

The Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama in Mariupol is destroyed by an airstrike from Russian forces on Wednesday

The Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama in Mariupol is destroyed by an airstrike from Russian forces on Wednesday

The Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama in Mariupol is destroyed by an airstrike from Russian forces on Wednesday

Rescuers work at the site of a residential building damaged by an airstrike on Thursday

Rescuers work at the site of a residential building damaged by an airstrike on Thursday

Rescuers work at the site of a residential building damaged by an airstrike on Thursday

Aerial footage released by the Azov Battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine on Wednesday shows Russian army tanks are destroyed as they enter the besieged city of Mariupol

Aerial footage released by the Azov Battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine on Wednesday shows Russian army tanks are destroyed as they enter the besieged city of Mariupol

Aerial footage released by the Azov Battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine on Wednesday shows Russian army tanks are destroyed as they enter the besieged city of Mariupol

President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack ‘heartbreaking’, while Joe Biden branded Putin a ‘war criminal.’

Casualties from the attack are unclear, but City officials said this morning that evacuations are now underway, and that a bomb shelter at the theatre survived the strike. It is unclear how many people were inside at the time.

Despite the mounting death toll, peace talks between the two sides are continuing with concrete proposals for a ceasefire being discussed. 

Russian negotiators yesterday briefed journalists on their 15-point plan for peace, which would see Ukraine declare neutrality and place limits on its armed forces in return for Russian withdrawal.

Ukraine’s chief negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak would not be drawn on the plan, saying only that the two sides had discussed it and it did not take Kyiv’s negotiating position into account. 

The proposal makes no mention of Crimea and Donbass – Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia and its proxies before the invasion – with President Zelensky later reiterating that his country’s territorial integrity is not up for negotiation.

Source: Daily Mail

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