The European Union has threatened to impose a set of "targeted sanctions" against Russia if it does not take steps to de-escalate the crisis sparked by its military build up on the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine.
The EU also convened an emergency summit of its leaders in Brussels on Thursday to take final decisions on punitive measures in response to what it called Russia's "violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Ukraine.
At an emergency meeting in Brussels yesterday, the EU foreign ministers condemned Russia's military build-up in Crimea as an "act of aggression" and asked it to withdraw its armed forces to the areas of their permanent stationing.
Russia should also agree without delay to the request by Ukraine to hold consultations, as foreseen in their bilateral Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of 1997, they said in a statement issued after the meeting.
In the absence of de-escalating steps by Russia, the EU will take decisions, which will have consequences for bilateral relations such as suspending talks with Russia on visa matters and will consider further "targeted measures," it warned.
They strongly condemned "the clear violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression" by Russian armed forces as well as the authorisation given by the Russian parliament on March 1 for the deployment of the armed forces on the territory of Ukraine, the statement said.
These actions are in clear breach of the United Nations charter and the final act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe as well as Russia's specific commitments to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 and the bilateral Treaty on Friendship, cooperation and Partnership of 1997, the statement said.
The foreign ministers voiced their support for the efforts of Ukraine's transitional government to stabilise the situation in the country and to embark on a reform course. The EU will continue its efforts with international financial institutions, especially the International Monetary Fund to work out an international aid package to address the country's urgent needs, the statement said.
Meanwhile, president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy yesterday announced that he had convened an emergency meeting of the EU heads of state and government on Thursday to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine and how the EU can contribute to de-escalate the crisis.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met Russian foreign