Ukraine leaders appeal to EU for support
Warning of Russian threat to wider world
Vitaly Klitschko speaking in Dublin yesterday. “These days are critically important for the whole world and not just Ukraine,” he said. Photograph: David Sleator
Two leading Ukrainian politicians have warned EU leaders that failure to prevent Russian intervention in their country would have damaging implications for the whole world.
Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was released from prison after the overthrow of the country’s former government last month, warned in Dublin last night that if Russia was allowed to annex Crimea, the rest of Ukraine would be next.
Vitaly Klitschko, one of the leaders of the uprising that toppled Viktor Yanukovich from power, said the next few days would be important for the whole world, not just Ukraine.
The two Ukrainian leaders were in Dublin for the annual congress of the European People’s Party, which was delayed due to an EU emergency summit in Brussels earlier in the day to discuss the situation.
Ms Tymoshenko, who was in a wheelchair after more than two years in prison, said Russia’s plans for annexation had to be stopped.
“This is broader and deeper than Crimea or Ukraine. The imperial ambitions of Russia have to be stopped. I want to be very clear. Today the leaders of the EU have to understand what is going on in Crimea.”
On the Russian plan to hold a referendum on whether the region should remain a part of Ukraine, she said: “Any question like this should be decided in a national referendum in the whole of Ukraine. You cannot pretend it is a democratic referendum when Russian troops are on the ground to intimidate the people of Crimea.”
Ms Tymoshenko added that if the referendum succeeded, the question was what would happen next. “I want everybody to know that Ukraine will resist,” she told a press conference at the Convention Centre Dublin. She called on the US and Britain to make it clear that they would not stand for Russian annexation.
Vitaly Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion who has emerged as a leader of the pro-western movement, also warned of dangers. “It is a very critical situation and I would hope that we can fix it soon through negotiations. These days are critically important for the whole world and not just Ukraine.”
He said the new government in Ukraine was working on reforms that would make it possible to integrate the country in the EU.
Mr Klitschko also said that people of the EU needed to be aware that there was an information war going on with lies about extremists and nationalists grabbing power in Ukraine.