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Published: Friday August 29, 2014 MYT 11:45:02 PM
Updated: Friday August 29, 2014 MYT 11:45:55 PM

EU ministers discuss new response to Russia over Ukraine

MILAN (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers met in Italy on Friday to find what a diplomatic source said would be a clear message on sanctions for EU heads of states to make to Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

EU leaders meet at a summit in Brussels on Saturday.

The five-month conflict in Ukraine reached a dangerous point this week after NATO said on Thursday that well over 1,000 Russian troops had crossed the Ukrainian border and were fighting alongside pro-Moscow separatists.

Russia says it has no involvement in the conflict that is pitting the rebels against the Ukrainian military, but EU foreign ministers were clearly not persuaded.

"We have to react, we should show solidarity to our neighbours," said Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard as he entered the meeting chaired by Italy, the current EU president.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, speaking from Amsterdam, said tougher sanctions against Russia should be considered.

At the end of July, the EU and the United States announced sanctions against Russia, targeting its energy, banking and defence sectors. Previously the EU had only imposed sanctions against certain individuals and organisations accused of direct involvement in threatening Ukraine.

Poland said Russian "aggression" had created the most serious security crisis in Europe for decades and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned of a possible broader conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

"If the situation continues to worsen, finding a political situation becomes more and more difficult," he said.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine erupted in April, a month after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in response to the toppling of a pro-Moscow president in Kiev.

A U.N. report this week said more than 2,200 people had been killed, not including the 298 who died when a Malaysian airliner was shot down over rebel-held territory in July.

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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