Crimea: Tymoshenko calls for tough action from west
Leading Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko today called for Europe to take strong action over Crimea's attempt to join Russia, warning that otherwise Moscow would move to take over the rest of Ukraine and destabilise the continent.
Speaking hours after the parliament of the Ukrainian region of Crimea voted to join Russia, a visibly emotional Tymoshenko warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin would take advantage of any weakness by the West.
"If we allow Russia on March 16 to hold a referendum at gunpoint on the annexation of Crimea we will lose Ukraine and stability throughout the whole world," Tymoshenko told a meeting of the European People's Party, the largest bloc in the European parliament.
"If there is no timely support of Ukraine, real support, then it is difficult to forecast the consequences of inaction," she said.
Tymoshenko, twice Ukrainian prime minister and one of the favourites to become its next president, said Ukraine was too weak to stand up to Moscow alone and that the use of military force against Russia should not be ruled out.
"Stopping Russian aggression isn't just a matter of achieving freedom for Ukraine. We are talking about freedom for the entire region. We are talking about war or peace in Europe," she said.
Tymoshenko called for Britain and United States, as signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum which guaranteed Ukraine's territorial integrity, to act as intermediaries for negotiations with Moscow.
Speaking two weeks after she was released from prison following the collapse of the government of Viktor Yanukovich, she also said Ukraine still hoped to sign an association agreement with the European Union, which Yanukovich refused to sign.
"I very much hope that before or after the presidential elections (on May 25) we will sign an association agreement with the European Union."