Ukraine mobilises as Merkel warns Russia

2014-03-13 14:57
German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Odd Anderson, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Kiev - Ukraine moved on Thursday to mobilise a volunteer force to ward off Russia's expansionist threat as Berlin warned Moscow of long-term damage to its economy and EU relations over the Crimea crisis.

The Verkhovna Rada parliament unanimously backed the creation of a new force of up to 60 000 volunteers who could keep Russian troops from advancing beyond the Crimean peninsula they seized at the start of the month.

The dramatic decision to bolster Ukraine's defences with people outside the army came shortly after US President Barack Obama threw his full weight behind Ukraine's new pro-European leaders in their Cold War-style standoff with the Kremlin.

National Security and Defence Council chief Andriy Parubiy said the new National Guard would "ensure state security, defend the borders, and eliminate terrorist groups" - a term many in Kiev use to call the well-armed militias who patrol Crimea alongside Russian troops.

Ukraine's conventional army of 130 000 soldiers - half of them conscripts with ageing equipment - is dwarfed by a 845 000-strong Russian force that has the backup of nuclear weapons.

The flaring crisis on the eastern edge of Europe was sparked by the ousting last month of a pro-Kremlin government that prompted President Vladimir Putin to seek and win the right to use force against a neighbour for the first time since a brief 2008 war with Georgia.

The more nationalist and Western-leaning team that rose to power on the back of a deadly popular revolt is viewed with derision by Putin and increasing warmth by Washington and EU states.

Putin's 1 March decision to order troops into Crimea for the "protection" of the Russian-speaking majority there now threatens to bring down a host of political and economic sanctions that could leave the Kremlin more isolated from the West than at any point since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel - a fluent Russian speaker whose upbringing in Communist East Germany shaped both her cautious approach to Moscow and understanding of the importance of keeping relations with the Kremlin on track - delivered her most ominous warning to date in an appearance before the German parliament.

'Massively damage Russia'

"If Russia continues its course of the last weeks, it would not only be a catastrophe for Ukraine," she told the chamber.

"It would not only change the relationship of the European Union as a whole to Russia. No, it would also, and I am firmly convinced of this, massively damage Russia both economically and politically."

Merkel accused Russia of using the "failed" expansionist tactics of the previous two centuries.

Russia's parliament is still due to consider legislation next week simplifying the process for the annexation of Crimea - a strong possibility after the Black Sea region holds a hotly disputed referendum on Sunday on switching over to Kremlin rule.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said meanwhile that it had postponed the process for the Russian Federation to join its 34-member organisation.

The European Union will debate travel bans and asset freezes on Monday against Russian officials held responsible for threatening Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Brussels is also expected next week to offer Ukraine a chance to sign an historic EU trade pact whose abrupt November rejection in favour of closer ties with Russia sparked the initial wave of Kiev unrest.

The White House has been moving on punitive measures faster than its European allies - their financial and energy sectors intertwined tightly with Russia - and has already approved visa restrictions and financial penalties on Moscow officials.

But Obama told Ukraine's visiting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Wednesday that Washington was willing to move much further if Putin failed to soften his stance immediately.

'We will stand with Ukraine'

"There's another path available and we hope President Putin is willing to seize that path," Obama told reporters after awarding Yatsenyuk - whose legitimacy Putin rejects - the honour of a government leader by meeting him in the Oval Office.

"But if he does not, I'm very confident that the international community will stand firmly behind the Ukrainian government."

And Obama made plain where he stood on Russian troop movements in Crimea that began at the start of the month.

"We have been very clear that we consider the Russian incursion into Crimea outside of its bases to be a violation of international law," Obama stressed.

"And we have been very firm in saying that we will stand with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in ensuring that territorial integrity and sovereignty is maintained."

US officials say Moscow will have its best chance to show a willingness to compromise and avert even more punishing Western measures on Friday during talks in London between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Sergei Lavrov.

But Russia has thus far showed no willingness to either call back its troops or reconsider its support for a referendum that both Kiev and much of the global community view as illegitimate.

The White House said on Sunday that even Moscow's key diplomatic ally Beijing supported Ukraine's "sovereignty and territorial integrity" after talks between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

G7 denounces 'annexation'

Putin's isolation intensified still further on Wednesday when the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations urged Russia "to cease all efforts to change the status of Crimea contrary to Ukrainian law and in violation of international law".

"The annexation of Crimea could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states," said the statement from countries accounting for more than 60% of global wealth.

France meanwhile said that an annual visit by the country's defence and foreign ministers to Moscow - initially planned for Monday and seen as a symbol of Moscow's close partnership with Paris - was conditional on "progress" on Ukraine.
Read more on:    g7  |  eu  |  vladimir putin  |  sergei lavrov  |  viktor yanukovych  |  barack obama  |  john kerry  |  angela merkel  |  arseniy yatsenyuk  |  ukraine  |  ukraine protests
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
32 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Africa: Land of Billionaires!

Find out who are the richest of the richest in Africa!

 
 

Men24.com

Best bro movies 2014
Every man should be able to do these three things
Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!
Hottie of the day: Jesselyn

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Hot festive offers at kalahari.com!

Hurry! Stocks are limited. Don’t miss out. Shop Now!

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may feel divided. Conflict between mind and emotions can create tension or indecision. This could lead to stressful feelings...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.