German Chancellor Angela Merkel has threatened Russia with further measures from the EU if it continues to “destabilise the situation in Ukraine”.
“The territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be called into question,” Merkel told the German parliament on Thursday.
“If Russia continues its course of the last few weeks, it would not only be a catastrophe for Ukraine, we would not only see it, also as neighbours of Russia, as a threat. It would not only change the European Union’s relationship with Russia, it would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically, I am convinced of this,” she added.
Merkel has acknowledged that her efforts to persuade Russia’s President Putin to negotiate via a “contact group” with the transition government in Kyiv have failed and time is running out.
In an unusually emotive speech she said that the Russian leader was destroying years of post-Soviet rapprochement and was dragging Europe back into “a conflict about spheres of influence and territorial claims that we know from the 19th or 20th-century but thought were a thing of the past”.
“The territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be called into question,” she told the Bundestag lower house of parliament, making clear that Crimea could not be compared to Kosovo, which seceded from the former Yugoslavia in 2008.
Merkel grew up behind the Iron Curtain, speaks Russian and has tried to leverage her influence with Putin, whom she has known for 14 years, in countless phone calls. The former KGB officer, who himself speaks German, is said to respect her as a strong leader.
At a meeting on Wednesday with Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, US President Barack Obama also said Moscow would face “costs” from the US such as economic sanctions, and that he hoped a diplomatic solution could be found to the situation in Crimea.