Ukraine crisis: EU leaders race in vain to find a diplomatic solution

 

Under pressure from events and a passionate appeal from the Ukrainian prime minister, EU leaders have warned of “far-reaching” consequences if Russia fails to ease the crisis in Crimea.

An emergency summit of EU leaders agreed a tougher than expected, three-phase package of punitive measures – some immediate and some threatened – to persuade Moscow to enter talks with the new government in Ukraine. The EU move against Russian interests was accompanied by similar moves from the US.

Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former Prime Minister, warned European politicians that "stopping Russian aggression" was key to securing "freedom for the entire region", adding: "We are talking about war or peace in Europe."

Under the terms of the agreement reached in Brussels, negotiations with Moscow on new visa and trade deals with the EU are to be broken off immediately. A travel ban and asset freeze on senior Russian figures will be imposed unless Moscow agrees "contact talks" with Kiev "within a few days".

Finally, the EU warned that – despite grave reservations expressed by some leaders – there would be "severe and far-reaching" sanctions "in a broad range of economic areas" if Russian troops invaded others parts of eastern Ukraine.

Amid the tension, it emerged that US is to send 12 F-16 warplanes to Ukraine's neighbour Poland and six F-15s to Lithuania, while Russia's Western Military District said it had begun its "largest-ever" air defence exercise.

 

The diplomatic package disappointed some of the more hawkish EU states in Eastern Europe but Prime Minister David Cameron said that it went "much further" than many observers had expected. "Illegal actions committed by Russia cannot pass without a response. It cannot be business as usual with Russia," Mr Cameron said.

The French President, François Hollande, said that Russia could expect "extremely serious consequences" if it failed to enter talks or took any further action to destabilise Ukraine. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "We have experienced very much disappointment in recent days and now we are ready to act." Talk of the need for a softly, softly approach had cloaked the fact that there was little stomach amongst large EU countries for an economic cold war with Moscow which could damage recovering European economies. Berlin, in particular, feared that Russia could sever its gas exports, which amount to 40 per cent of the gas used in Germany.

Mr Hollande said, the mood of the summit had "shifted" during the day towards cautious confrontation.

Hopes that Russia might be backing off had been dashed by the vote of the Crimean regional parliament, strongly under Moscow's influence, to become part of Russia and to hold an "annexation" referendum on 16 March.

The move towards a referendum prompted a strong reaction from the US. Speaking tonight, President Barack Obama said any decisions on Crimea, a pro-Russian area of Ukraine, must include the country's new government. "The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the constitution and violate international law," Mr Obama said.

Rapid moves by Washington had threatened to leave EU leaders looking indecisive. The US government approved a tough package of measures – visa restrictions and possible asset seizures. Summit sources said that the atmosphere was also radically changed by a passionate speech by the interim Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk. Ms Merkel, had arrived intending to scale down EU threats of sanctions (under pressure from German business leaders). Officials said that, after a private meeting with Mr Yatseniuk, she appeared to change sides.

In a press conference, Mr Yatseniuk pleaded with Russia not to build a new Iron Curtain in Europe. "Mr Putin, tear down this wall," Mr Yatseniuk said, echoing remarks made by Ronald Reagan in 1987.

Moscow could not hope, he said, to rebuild "a wall of intimidation and a wall of military aggression" in the 21st century. The referendum scheduled on Russian "annexation" of Crimea on 16 March was "illegitimate", he said.

"We are ready for co-operation but not for surrender or to be subordinate to Russia," he said. Asked if Ukraine was ready to defend itself militarily, he replied: "We still believe that we can solve it in a peaceful manner but in case of further escalation and military intervention into the Ukrainian territory… we are ready to protect our country. We have less arms, no nuclear bombs but we have the spirit… of freedom and liberty."

A visibly emotional Ms Tymoshenko warned a meeting of the European People's Party, the largest bloc in the European parliament, that allowing Russia to hold "a referendum at gunpoint on the annexation of Crimea" would threaten the stability of the world. "If there is no timely support of Ukraine, real support, then it is difficult to forecast the consequences of inaction.

Life and Style
health

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
i100
News
Privately schooled, Oxford educated and a former editor of arguably the world's poshest magazine 'The Lady', it's perhaps unsurprising that Rachel Johnson rarely mixes with ordinary Proles.
people

The Mayor of London's sister, Rachel Johnson, apologises for shocking tweet about the PM

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environmentNepenthes zygon had been growing for almost a decade and helping to keep down cockroaches
News
This artist impression shows a modern-day Atlantis
news
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development - Telecommunications - £50,000 OTE

£25000 per annum + £50,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Southend, Al...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Agent - £22,000 OTE

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a Call Centre Agent you will...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £20,000

£12000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Langley James : IT Helpdesk Technician; earn £'s for Xmas; Brighton; £120+ p/d

£120 - £130 per day: Langley James : IT Helpdesk Technician; earn £'s for Xmas...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital