Hands off Crimea – Merkel's warning to Putin
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, promised yesterday that Russia would not "get away" with "annexing" Crimea as world powers agreed to impose targeted sanctions on senior figures close to the Kremlin.
Mrs Merkel told a meeting of her parliamentary party that Russia's intervention in Ukraine violated the principles of post-war order in Europe.
Her message came as America and the European Union agreed a joint response to Russia's de facto seizure of Crimea, backed by other countries, including Canada and Japan.
Mrs Merkel told MPs from the Christian Democratic Union: "What has happened in Crimea is an annexation which Russia must not be allowed to get away with." She warned that sanctions on Russia were justified even if they damaged the German economy, according to the magazine 'Der Spiegel'.
The two countries have close economic ties, with bilateral trade exceeding €75bn last year. Germany now ranks as Russia's third-biggest trading partner.
But Mrs Merkel said that a "certain amount of toughness" was required and "all European Union countries should stick together to defend "European values".
On Tuesday, German officials travelled to London to discuss sanctions with counterparts from nine other countries, including Britain, America, Switzerland and Japan. These officials are believed to be preparing a list of powerful Russians with links to the Kremlin for travel bans and asset freezes. The trigger for the sanctions will be the referendum in Crimea on Sunday, which will decide if the region joins Russia.
European Union foreign ministers will meet on Monday – the day after the vote – with the authority to impose sanctions on "persons responsible for actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine".
As for who might be singled out, about 20 Russians close to Mr Putin are believed to be possible targets. The foreign ministers will also warn Russia against formally annexing Crimea after the referendum, saying this step would risk further sanctions.
The leaders of all EU countries will then meet for a summit on Thursday. If Russia has annexed Crimea, they will consider extending sanctions with "severe and far-reaching consequences" to a "broad range of economic areas".
Yesterday, the G7 group of rich nations issued a joint statement declaring that the annexation of Crimea would have "grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states".
These moves are the result of intense diplomatic contact between America and its EU allies.
Western diplomatic sources in Washington said there was a consensus for targeted sanctions against key persons around Mr Putin.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the new prime minister of Ukraine, is visiting Washington – his government believes there remains a significant threat of Russia escalating the crisis by invading eastern Ukraine.
Hopes that the threat of sanctions might be opening a diplomatic route to resolving the crisis were raised by the announcement that John Kerry, the US secretary of state, is to hold talks in London tomorrow with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.
The Russian ambasssador to Ireland told an Oireachtas committee that the granting of permission by the Russian parliament to the President on possible deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine was their 'domestic business.' 'If we use these forces, then it will be the business of some others. Our domestic decisions are our domestic business,'' he said.
Maxim Peshkov appeared before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, to answer questions about Russia's involvement in the escalating conflict. (©The Daily Telegraph)