BRUSSELS: The European Union has warned that the apparent incursion of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil pushes the conflict closer to a point of no return, with new economic sanctions being drawn up to make Moscow reconsider its position.
The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who briefed a summit of the 28-nation EU’s leaders in Brussels, said a strong response was needed to the “military aggression and terror” facing his country.
“Thousands of foreign troops and hundreds of foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine,” Poroshenko told reporters in English. “There is a very high risk not only for peace and stability for Ukraine, but for the whole peace and stability of Europe.” Earlier, Vladimir Putin was warned that the crisis in Ukraine could be reaching the “point of no return” as European leaders said the EU was ready to defend its principles.
The outgoing European commission president, José Manuel Barroso, said: “We are in a very serious, I would say, dramatic situation … where we can reach the point of no return.”
At a joint press conference with Poroshenko in Brussels yesterday morning, Barroso said it was not too late to find a political solution to the crisis but warned: “If the escalation of the conflict continues, this point can come.
“Russia should not underestimate the European Union’s will and resolve to stand by its principles and values.”
David Cameron also held talks with Poroshenko in Brussels before a summit to decide on two top EU jobs. He said: “We have to address the completely unacceptable situation of having Russian troops on Ukraine soil. Consequences must follow if that situation continues and we will be discussing that as well.”
Poroshenko’s call for tougher EU sanctions against Moscow came as the Ukrainian military said one of its fighter jets was shot down by Russian anti-aircraft fire. In a statement, the military said: “A Russian anti-aircraft system shot down an Su-25 fighter. The pilot managed to eject.” It did not give the location of the incident but said it happened on Friday morning. It also denied rebel claims that four planes had been taken down by insurgents.
Poroshenko said his presence at the summit was an important demonstration of EU solidarity with his country. “The most important thing now is peace,” he said. “Today we are talking about the fate of Ukraine, tomorrow it could be for
Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, said Russia was at war with Ukraine and so effectively at war with Europe. Calling on EU countries to supply Kiev with military equipment, she said: “It is a fact that Russia is in a war state against Ukraine. That means it is in a state of war against a country which would like to be closely integrated with the EU. Practically Russia is in a state of war against Europe.
“That means we need to help Ukraine to … defend its territory and its people and to help militarily, especially with the military materials to help Ukraine defend itself because today Ukraine is fighting a war on behalf of all Europe.”
Grybauskaite added that an arms embargo on Russia should be tightened by including a halt on sales under existing contracts – a thinly-veiled swipe at France, which has resisted calls to cancel a deal to sell Moscow a strategic new warship.
Earlier, the German vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, told journalists: “It is clear that after this intervention by Russia in Ukraine … EU leaders will certainly task the European commission with preparing the next level of sanctions.” “We see regular Russian army units operating offensively on the Ukrainian territory against the Ukrainian army. We must call a spade a spade,” added the Swedish foreign minister,