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Putin's objection not NATO but 'a more European Ukraine' — ex-EU chief Barroso

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By Euronews
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Vladimir Putin shakes hands with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in 2013.
Vladimir Putin shakes hands with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in 2013.   -   Copyright  Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

The former president of the European Commission has labelled the Russian invasion of Ukraine as "simply unacceptable".

José Manuel Barroso told Euronews that Moscow's assault on Ukrainian territory was "something we could not imagine".

"In a civilised world, in the 21st century ... this is simply unacceptable, it's against all principles of international law and even civilised behaviour," he said.

Barroso has also praised the European Union's response to the invasion and said it was "achievable" that Ukraine could become an EU member.

Current Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that Ukraine is "one of us and we want them in the European Union".

"I'm very very proud of the position that the European Union has been taking ... it shows great levels of convergence and unity," Barroso said.

"There are already many areas of co-operation between Ukraine and the European Union," Barroso told Euronews on Monday.

"I think it would be justified if the EU states and fully supports the aspiration of Ukraine joining when it is ready and when we will be ready."

Brussels announced over the weekend that it was sending weapons to Ukraine, banning Russian-backed media in the EU and prohibiting Russian aircraft from the bloc.

The EU has also increased its list of sanctions on Moscow officials.

Barroso served as Commission President from 2004 to 2014, after leaving his position as Portugal's Prime Minister.

During Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, he held several talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During one discussion, Putin reportedly told Barroso that Russian forces could seize Kyiv in just "two weeks".

Barroso told Euronews that the Russian President had said this while downplaying reports of direct Russian military involvement in Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014.

"Putin does not want a Ukraine that is more European, a Ukraine that wants the European way of life and be closer to open societies and economies," he said.

"It's, first of all, a tragedy in Ukraine, but I always saw Russia as part of European civilisation," Barroso added.

"Of course, we have differences with Russia -- and very serious ones -- but that was not a reason to transform Russia into an enemy."

"Now, it is a very dark moment for the whole of Europe, including Russia."

Click on the player above to watch the full interview on Euronews.