EU leaders plan to "strongly condemn" Russia at their summit tomorrow for its alleged attacks on civilians in Syria's Aleppo, urge an end to fighting and call for a revived political process.
A draft of their planned statement obtained by AFP omits the threat of sanctions, despite such calls from the United States and Britain, but it sharpens the tone against Russia.
"The European Council strongly condemns the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo," according to the draft.
It asks them to urgently allow "unhindered humanitarian access to Aleppo" and to other parts of Syria while calling "for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for resumption of a credible political process under UN auspices."
The draft warns that "those responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be held accountable."
In it the 28 leaders also ask EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the European Commission, the EU executive, to continue pursuing medical evacuations in cooperation with the United Nations.
It also asks her to push for a political transition in Syria by working with the region's main players which were not named.
The statement ratcheted up the tone against Russia after EU foreign ministers for the first time strongly condemned Russia by name Monday for the bombardment of Aleppo and warned that the strikes may amount to war crimes.
EU President Donald Tusk, who will host the summit, warned of the need to maintain European unity over Russia amid weakening support for sanctions imposed on Moscow over its involvement in Ukraine.
The leaders are due to hold a discussion on their Russia strategy over dinner at the summit.
Our main asset in dealing with Russia remains our unity. To date, regardless of our differences, we have always remained united and we must continue to do so," Tusk told a press conference.
"This will also be crucial when it comes to Russia's role in Syria," he added.
On top of sanctions pressure from Washington and London, European Parliament leaders Manfred Weber, Guy Verhofstadt and Rebecca Harms sent Tusk a letter urging him to push for coercive "measures."
They asked for a summit decision on "a set of enforcement tools to be activated should Russia continue violating UN Security Council resolutions and continue bombing civilians," according to a copy of the letter obtained by AFP.