Nato and EU pledge to intensify pressure on Moscow
EU promises €11 billion for Ukraine ahead of today’s emergency summit
Ukrainian sailors attend a religious service on the Ukrainian navy ship Ternopil in Sevastopol. EU leaders are expected to discuss imposing sanctions on Russia.
The European Union and Nato have pledged support for Ukraine and intensified pressure on Russia to end its military incursion in Crimea, where armed men last night forced a United Nations envoy to cut short his mission.
Brussels promised at least €11 billion “to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms-oriented Ukrainian government”, said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso ahead of an EU crisis summit today that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will attend.
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EU leaders are expected to discuss imposing sanctions on Russia. Kiev’s new prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will also be in Brussels, having denounced Russia’s deployment of troops in Crimea and warned that President Vladimir Putin may push forces into other largely Russian-speaking areas of southern and eastern Ukraine.
“We cannot figure out the reason why Russian boots are on Ukrainian ground. And it’s crystal clear that it was ordered personally by President Putin. This is Ukrainian territory and Russia wants to grab control over Crimea,” said Mr Yatsenyuk, urging Moscow to “stop this mess”.
The Kremlin said Mr Putin spoke
to German chancellor Angela Merkel last night about “possible options for international assistance to normalise the social-political situation” in Ukraine. In Paris, meanwhile, the foreign ministers of France, Russia, the United States, Germany, Britain and Ukraine held talks in different formats.
Despite requests from western diplomats, Moscow’s top envoy Sergei Lavrov did not meet Kiev counterpart Andriy Deshchytsya. “We are all concerned at what it is happening there,” said Mr Lavrov. “We agreed to continue those discussions in the days to come to see how best we can help stabilise, normalise the situation and overcome the crisis.” Asked why he did not meet Mr Lavrov, Mr Deshchytsya replied: “Ask Lavrov.”
Nato announced a full review of co-operation with Russia and a downgrading of meetings, alongside an intensification of training and other contact with Ukraine’s military.
US defence secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon was stepping up flight training with the Polish airforce and the US role in Nato air patrols over the ex-Soviet Baltic states. In Crimea, Russian troops and local militia continued to encircle Ukrainian military bases across the peninsula of two million people, about 60 per cent of whom are ethnic-Russian.
Mr Lavrov claimed
troops – with no insignia – were “self-defence units created by the inhabitants of Crimea. We give them no orders . . . As for the military personnel of the Black Sea Fleet, they are in their deployment sites. Yes, additional vigilance measures were taken to safeguard the sites . . . We will do everything not to allow any bloodshed.”
Russia, which has a lease until 2042 to base naval ships at the Crimean port of Sevastopol, claims its troops fanned out from that base to protect Russian speakers in Crimea from fascist thugs linked to Ukraine’s government.
The West says such claims are nonsense. Armed men last night surrounded Robert Serry, a UN special envoy, in the Crimea’s capital, Simferopol.
He was besieged in a cafe by people chanting pro-Russian slogans, and later driven to the airport by the gunmen. Moscow and local militia oppose foreign monitoring of Crimea. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe has sent 35 unarmed military personnel from 18 countries to Ukraine to act as observers in Crimea for one week.