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Ukraine 10-15 years from joining EU: Juncker

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(MADRID) - European Commission presidential candidate Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday warned Ukraine would not make it into the European Union for at least a decade due to its political crisis that has turned violent.

"I do not think the conditions are in place for Ukraine to become a member in the next 10 to 15 years, much less to make Ukraine a member of NATO," Juncker said in a public address in Madrid.

He also urged tougher sanctions on Russia, which the European Union accuses of backing separatists in Ukraine after Kiev in March signed an agreement that potentially binds it closer to Europe.

Later on Monday diplomats said EU officials had agreed to ramp up sanctions by adding 13 Russians and Crimeans as well as two companies to its existing blacklist.

"The European Union must react when international law is flouted as it is currently being in Crimea and in southeastern Ukraine by president (Vladimir) Putin" of Russia, Juncker said.

"Since we do not want war, we must impose sanctions which will obviously be strengthened as long as Russia does not change its policy," he told a gathering alongside Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

In a referendum on self-rule in the eastern Ukrainian province of Donetsk on Sunday, pro-Russian rebels claimed voters massively backed independence. Kiev dismissed the vote as an illegal "farce".

Juncker served as prime minister of Luxembourg, and headed the eurozone finance ministers' group during the recent currency crisis.

He is now the front-runner candidate of the biggest group in the European Parliament, the European People's Party (EPP), to become the next head of the EU executive when current president Jose Manuel Barroso steps down later this year.

Betting agencies have ranked him as the favourite but he faces a challenge from Socialist Martin Schulz of Germany, who also visited political allies in Spain on Sunday.


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