BRUSSELS, March 3 (RIA Novosti) – The European Union accused Russia of “acts of aggression” and a “clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty” in a strongly worded statement Monday that condemned the movement of troops into Crimea.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels demanded an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops to the areas of their bases in Crimea under international agreements reached with Ukraine.
They also urged Moscow to agree to Kiev’s request for talks under a bilateral friendship treaty signed in 1997.
The EU declaration also strongly condemned the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, for authorizing President Vladimir Putin to deploy troops in Ukraine.
It said Russia’s actions were in breach of the United Nations Charter, the OSCE Helsinki Final Act, and Moscow’s own commitments to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.
While the statement was couched in strong language, it was light on specific actions that the EU intends to take in response to the crisis with Russia over Ukraine.
The statement confirmed that the EU and member states represented in the G8 were suspending participation in activities leading up to the G8 summit in Sochi in June, which Russia is due to host as president of the grouping.
It also warned that “in the absence of de-escalating steps by Russia, the EU shall decide about consequences for bilateral relations between the EU and Russia.” This could include suspension of talks on reform of visa regulations and “further targeted measures”.
The EU also praised Ukraine’s new government for its “measured response” to the crisis and stressed the “utmost importance” of taking steps to ensure “full protection of national minorities.”
It reaffirmed the EU’s offer of an association agreement with Ukraine and said that this “does not constitute the final goal in EU-Ukraine cooperation,” a hint that future membership of the union could be open to Kiev.
The EU also pledged to give “full support” to an international assistance package to help Ukraine deal with its crippling economic problems.