Updated at 15:34,14-12-2017

EUobserver: EU wants positive steps on political prisoners

Belsat

The bloc is considering hiring lobbyists to counter Russian "disinformation" and giving more money to Georgia and Moldova in reaction to the Ukraine crisis, Belgian e-media EUobserver reports.

The ideas are put forward in two internal papers, seen by EUobserver. They come after Ukraine, under Russian pressure, refused to sign an EU association and free trade pact in Lithuania last year, putting in doubt the viability of the EU policy for the region, the so-called Eastern Partnership (EaP).

One paper calls for Georgia and Moldova to sign EU pacts by August, but has lower ambitions for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Ukraine itself, the e-media states.

On Ukraine, it rules out sanctions for now, but keeps the option open if things get worse, saying the Union should: "Continue engagement with Ukraine on a broad political spectrum and adjust the EU policy in light of developments."

It does not give up even on Belarus, Andrew Rettman, the author of the article, says.

'Mixing sport with politics, it notes the EU should, via "informal contacts" with Minsk, look to "using" its Ice Hockey World Championship this year to encourage "positive steps on political prisoners",' the paper reads.