Berlin, Mar 14, 2014: Accusing Russia of “exploiting a phase of uncertainty” in Ukraine, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Moscow would risk “massive” political and economic damage if it refused to change course on Crimea.
Merkel’s comments came as tension mounted ahead of Sunday’s referendum in Ukraine’s autonomous Black Sea peninsula on whether to join the Russian Federation.
“An annexation of Crimea and a destabilisation of eastern Ukraine would not only change the relationship between the EU and Russia, but Russia would also be damaging itself massively in both economic and political terms,” Merkel said.
Merkel called upon Russia to show its willingness for a diplomatic solution by agreeing to create an international “contact group” or an observer mission.
The territorial integrity of Ukraine is non-negotiable and this must be the basis for any efforts to resolve the crisis, she said. The chancellor referred to the decision taken by the EU leaders at their summit in Brussels last Thursday to impose a set of sanctions against Russia in three stages.
In the first phase, negotiations with Russia on easing visa restrictions and on a new agreement concerning the basis of EU-Russia cooperation were suspended.