The EU’s top brass arrived in Brussels for an emergency summit on Ukraine just as Crimea’s parliament voted to leave the country and join Russia.
How that affects EU leaders’ decision-making is still unclear, but Lithuania and Russia’s other eastern neighbours were pressing for tough measures ahead of talks.
Ukraine’s neighbour Romania has offered to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow, with the country’s President Traian Basescu proposing to lead those negotiations.
Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the diplomatic crisis was an acid test for Europe.
“ We have a crisis to diffuse and Europe must prove its moderating role,” Samaras said.
France’s President Hollande backed help for the new government in Kyiv.
‘‘The European Council will be able to express the EU’s voice on the situation in Ukraine by giving its support to the Ukrainian government and by leading economic reforms and organising the presidential election there.’‘
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel also welcomed the EU’s economic support for Ukraine.
“How can we we help Ukraine in this situation? We want the people who fought for freedom and democracy to have a future. That’s why I welcome the financial aid package for Ukraine, which the European Commission agreed yesterday,”
But in terms of sanctions Berlin is believed to want more moderate action, highlighting differences inside the EU over how to tackle Moscow.