French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday that Western sanctions against Russia over its occupation of Crimea could be imposed as early as this week if Moscow fails to respond to US moves to address the crisis.
Fabius also told the France Inter radio station that a March 16 Crimean referendum on joining Russia or remaining part of Ukraine was illegitimate and that Russia's permanent annexation of the region would be "illegal" and unacceptable.
“We cannot accept something that is illegal and which will also have very serious consequences,” Fabius said.
Fabius said sanctions could include freezing the assets of Russian or Ukrainian individuals as well as travel bans.
Crimea's assembly declared independence from Ukraine on Tuesday, days ahead of the planned referendum.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has sent a proposition to Moscow in an effort to calm the situation, including a proposal to establish a contact group to bring Ukraine and Russia together for formal talks.
“If they respond positively, John Kerry will go to Moscow, and in that case the sanctions won’t be immediate,” Fabius said. “If they don’t respond, or if they respond negatively, in that case there are a series of sanctions that can be taken as early as this week.”
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a televised meeting on Monday that the proposals "do not suit us very much", adding that Moscow would soon propose its own solution to the situation in Crimea.
Kerry has rejected an offer to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin until Moscow responds to the US proposals to bring an end to the crisis.
Lavrov said Washington was basing its proposed diplomatic solutions on a recognition of Ukraine's new leaders but that Russia still considers ousted president Viktor Yanukovich to be the legitimate president.
In a televised appearance on Tuesday, Yanukovich said he remained Ukraine's rightful ruler and the head of the country's military, calling the opposition forces that ousted him "bandits".
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)
Date created : 2014-03-11