Saturday

24th Sep 2016

EU ministers weigh reaction to Ukraine referendums

EU foreign ministers are expected to give a low key reaction to the weekend’s referendums on independence in eastern Ukraine.

One diplomat said the bloc is likely to broaden the designation of the EU’s Russia blacklist to enable it to target more senior Kremlin officials in future, but that ministers will not add new names to the existing list-of-48 when they meet in Brussels on Monday (12 May).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The EU and US criticised Putin's Crimea visit (Photo: kremlin.ru)

“Some colleagues still believe there’s a possibility of resolving the situation with political dialogue,” the EU source noted.

“The EU is in a lose-lose situation: If we do nothing, people will say Europe is hesitating. If one or two EU states impose extra sanctions, they will say we cannot agree. If all 28 move together, they will say we are provoking Russia.”

For their part German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande at a meeting in Stralsund, Germany, on Saturday threatened to impose economic measures against Russia if it disrupts Ukraine’s 25 May presidential elections.

They said nothing about sanctions in view of Sunday’s referendums, however.

They also called for Ukrainian forces to act “proportionally” in their efforts to retake government buildings in rebel-held areas amid mounting casualties in what Kiev is calling its “Anti-terror Operation”.

The referendum results announced by separatists in Donetsk on Sunday night said 90 percent of people votes Yes to the question "Do you support the act of state self-rule of the Donetsk People's Republic?"

They said the turnout was 75 percent.

Rebel authorities in Luhansk said turnout was 89 percent but did not unveil the outcome of the vote.

"All military troops on our territory after the official announcement of referendum results will be considered illegal and declared occupiers … It is necessary to form state bodies and military authorities as soon as possible,” Denis Pushilin, a separatist leader in Donetsk said.

The votes were denounced as “illegal” by authorities in Kiev, whose forces saw continued skirmishes in the region amid the voting, with US agency The Associated Press reporting that Ukrainian soldiers fired into a crowd of civilians in the eastern city of Krasnoarmeysk, killing two people.

For his part, France’s Hollande said on a visit to Azerbaijan on Sunday: "I don't want to call them referendums … [because they] had no legitimacy and no legality."

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted: “Figures from fake referendums likely to be fake. No way of knowing even turnout.”

The EU Council’s President, Herman Van Rompuy, also announced he will travel to Kiev on Monday "to continue our talks on how to stabilise the situation in Ukraine ahead of the presidential elections on 25 May, how to put an end to violence in Ukraine, and how to create an inclusive national dialogue".

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has not yet spoken out on the legitimacy of the referendum results.

But he gave a patriotic speech in Moscow on 9 May as the Russian military paraded in front of the Kremlin on a World War II anniversary. “It is a festival when … we all keenly feel what it means to be loyal to the motherland and how important it is to be able to defend its interests,” he said.

He then flew to Sevastopol in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in March following a Donetsk/Luhanks-type plebiscite, where he stepped off a naval vessel to address Russian-flag waving crowds.

A US state department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said "Crimea belongs to Ukraine and we don't recognise of course the illegal and illegitimate steps by Russia in that regard."

An EU spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, told press the EU "regretted" his Sevastopol visit.

"An important day in our shared history, dedicated to honouring the enormous sacrifices and giving remembrance to the millions of dead in the Second World War, should not have been instrumentalised to give visibility to the illegal annexation of Crimea," she noted.

Robert Gates, the former US defence chief told media: “In the short term, there's not a lot we can do.”

"My view is, if Putin is playing a long game, that's what we need to do. And we need to figure out how we can push back on the periphery of Russia, in terms of making sure those states have the independence to choose with whom they want to ally or have economic relations,” he added.

EU rushing to ratify climate agreement

Environment ministers will try to agree next week to speed up the process to sign up to the Paris agreement. Otherwise it would not be present at the table of the signatories at a conference in November.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice
  2. HuaweiAn Industry-leading ICT Solution Provider and Building a Better World
  3. World VisionUN Refugees Meeting a Wasted Opportunity to Improve the Lives of Millions of Children
  4. Belgrade Security ForumCan Democracy Survive Global Disorder?
  5. YouthProAktivEntrepreneurship, Proactivity, Innovation - Turn Ideas Into Action #IPS2016
  6. GoogleTrimming the Waste-Line: Weaving Circular Economy Principles Into Our Operations
  7. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeDon't Miss the Mega Conference to Master Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  8. Martens CentreFighting Terrorism: Do we have what it takes? 26 September, Brussels
  9. ACCAKaras Report on Access to Finance for SMEs in a Capital Markets Union
  10. Centre Maurits Coppieters"I still believe we can change Europe" Said David Grosclaude
  11. World VisionThe Child Protection Index to be Launched in Brussels on 28 September 2016
  12. HuaweiDigital Transformation: Unleashing Europe’s Potential