Merkel: Comparing Crimea to Kosovo is 'shameful'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday (13 March) told the Bundestag it is "shameful" to compare the independence of Kosovo with the referendum for independence in Crimea and called on Russia to stop its actions in Ukraine or face economic sanctions.
"In Kosovo we had years in which the international community had no power to intervene while Slobodan Milosevic carried out his ethnic cleansing. Nato then decided to act alone because Russia continuously blocked any UN mandate on Serbia. That situation is in no way similar to what is happening today in Ukraine," she said.
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"In my opinion it is shameful to compare Crimea to Kosovo. And even if there had been other breaches of international law - Kosovo not being one of them - Russia's actions in Ukraine are still a breach of international law," she added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month justified a decision to send troops to Crimea by comparing it to the international intervention in Kosovo in the late 1990s.
He said he wanted to protect ethnic Russians, who make up the majority of the population on the Crimean peninsula.
But to Merkel "this conflict is about spheres of influence and territorial claims" and a repeat of Russian actions during the 2008 Georgian war, which ended with two Georgian regions under Russian occupation.
Merkel noted that the independence referendum called by Crimean authorities, and advanced from 25 May to 16 March, is in violation of Ukraine's constitution because it was not approved at national level.
"In a phase of big insecurity in Ukraine, Russia is not acting like a stability partner, but uses its neighbour's weakness to advance its own interests. It is the power of the mightiest put above the power of law. What we are witnessing now is oppressive and I fear we need to be prepared for the long haul in solving this conflict," she said.
Unlike the US, whose army chiefs have prepared for military action and whose diplomats say "all options are on the table" against Russia, Merkel insists that there is "no military option" to solve this conflict.
She spoke of a three step approach against Russia. The first - freezing EU-Russia talks on visa freedom and trade - has already been taken.
A travel ban on Putin allies is the second step. This could be triggered on Monday at a foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels. The third step - economic sanctions - may be then agreed by EU leaders when they meet at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
"Nobody wants these measures, that is clear. But we would be willing and determined to go this road if it is unavoidable. This has been agreed among all 28 EU states and in close coordination with Nato and G7 partners."
"If Russia stays the course, it would not be just a catastrophe for Ukraine, not just a threat for us as its neighbours, but it would massively hurt Russia, economically and politically," Merkel warned.
The sanctions move is unpopular in Germany. A recent poll showed only 24 percent in favour of economic sanctions while 69 percent believe it would not help solve the Crimea crisis.