EU foreign ministers have gathered in Brussels for an emergency meeting after a Moscow-backed referendum in Crimea voted in favour of a split from Ukraine.
They are expected to agree targeted sanctions on several Russian officials, assets and bank accounts.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that as well as sanctions there needed to be dialogue:
“We are also trying to send the strongest possible signals in our work today and later this week with heads of state and government to Russia, and it’s a signal, trying to ensure that they understand the seriousness of the situation. But is also a signal that we do genuinely believe there needs to be dialogue, there needs to be a way through this that can actually lead to the territorial integrity of Ukraine being assured and good and strong relations with Russia for Ukraine and the European Union,” said Ashton.
US President Barack Obama has said he too is ready to impose sanctions on Moscow.
In a phone call between the US leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama said that Washington would never recognise the results of the referendum and called for the deployment of international monitors to Crimea to “help prevent acts of violence by any groups.”