, BRUSSELS, August 31- European Union leaders on Sunday gave Russia a week to reverse course in Ukraine or face a new round of sanctions as Kiev warned it was on the brink of “full scale war” with Moscow.
Fears are growing that the confrontation on the EU’s eastern borders could engulf the whole continent after Russia sent troops to back a new offensive by pro Kremlin rebels in southeastern Ukraine.
EU President Herman Van Rompuy said the 28 leaders meeting in Brussels agreed to take “further significant steps” if Moscow did not back down.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has been ordered to produce options for new sanctions within a week, he said.
“Everybody is fully aware that we have to act quickly given the evolution on the ground and the tragic loss of life of the last days,” Van Rompuy told a news conference.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the new sanctions would build on existing measures against Russia which mainly cover financial services, armaments and energy.
The threat of new sanctions comes as 10 Russian paratroopers captured inside Ukraine nearly one week ago were returned home following a troop exchange, Russian media report.
In the early hours of Sunday the 10 paratroopers were handed over to Russian authorities at the Nekhoteyevka border crossing.
Russia in turn returned some 63 Ukrainian soldiers that had crossed onto its territory on Wednesday to flee fighting that has intensified during the past week.
– Near point of no return –
The sanctions plan came after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited Brussels to urge the EU to take tougher steps against Russia which he accused of “military aggression and terror.”
“We are very close to the point of no return, the point of no return is full scale war, which is already happening in the territories controlled by the separatists,” he told a news conference.
“Today we are talking about the fate of Ukraine, tomorrow it could be for all Europe.”
Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite, whose Baltic nation is wary of a resurgent Russia on its own borders, gave a similar warning as she urged the EU to send military equipment to Kiev.
“Russia is practically in a state of war against Europe,” she said.
The EU delivered a further riposte to Russia on Saturday when it appointed Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a vocal Kremlin critic, to replace Van Rompuy as its next president.