Saturday 20 January 2018

Ukrainian opposition in warning to Russia during Dublin visit

Ukrainian opposition leaders Yulia Tymoshenko and Vitali Klitschko in Dublin yesterday
Ukrainian opposition leaders Yulia Tymoshenko and Vitali Klitschko in Dublin yesterday
Protesters and Gardai outside the Convention Centre where the European People's Party (EPP) conference was taking place. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Boxer politicians Ken Egan, who is 6ft 2ins tall, and Vitaly Klitschko at the EPP congress in Dublin’s Convention Centre
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at the Convention Centre for the EPP congress

John Downing and Niall O'Connor

UKRAINIAN opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has warned that her people are ready to resist Russian moves to annex part of the country.

Addressing delegates at a major political conference in Dublin, she appealed to the international community for help and warned that her country was on the verge of economic collapse.

Speaking from a wheelchair because of a back injury, she said efforts to hold a plebiscite in the disputed territory of Crimea were completely illegal.

"I want everybody to know Ukrainians are ready to resist. Not just the army – but all citizens. It will be difficult to guarantee the consequences," she told some 2,000 European People's Party (EPP) delegates gathered at the Convention Centre.

The conference also heard from another Ukrainian opposition leader and well-known former heavyweight boxing champion, Vitali Klitschko, who said Ukraine's conflict must be resolved without bloodshed.

"War is the worst decision that can be made by politicians," he said.

The conference, hosted by Fine Gael, which is affiliated to the EPP, was overshadowed by the Ukrainian crisis.

Last night it was attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. He returned from an emergency EU summit in Brussels, which also focused on the situation in the Ukraine.

EU leaders suspended visa and economic talks with Russia and also threatened targeted sanctions and a broad range of economic measures.

Following the six-hour summit, Mr Kenny said there was a mood of "great concern" around the table and nobody wanted the situation to disintegrate.

Mr Kenny said there was a strong message for Russian President Vladimir Putin. "His actions in Crimea are not acceptable, are not to be tolerated," he said.

Ms Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister, who was only released from prison last month, said the regime of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych had turned away from democracy and economic development in favour of dictatorship and corruption. "Financially and economically, Ukraine is on the verge of collapse," she warned.

Ms Tymoshenko, who said she will leave Dublin tomorrowfor Berlin and specialist back surgery, dismissed the constitutional validity of a referendum in disputed Crimea on whether it should be Russian or Ukrainian.


She said any such vote would have to be taken all across the country to accord with the constitution.

"It will be a referendum under the Kalashnikov. Who will count the ballots?" she asked.

Ms Tymoshenko said the recent events were part of planned aggression by the Russian Federation and that the presence of Russian troops did not have popular support.

Ms Tymoshenko said that Ukraine could not negotiate any settlement with Russia because the relationship was too unequal and international intervention was required. She said that Russian aggression would not stop with Crimea – or indeed in Ukraine generally. She issued a direct appeal to United States and Britain especially for help.

Irish Independent

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