French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Saturday that they will pursue the appropriate “consequences” if Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election fails to take place.
“If there is not an internationally recognised presidential election, that would lead unavoidably to a further destabilisation of the country [Ukraine]. Germany and France are in agreement that if that is the case then corresponding consequences would be drawn as outlined by the European Council on March 6, 2014,” the two leaders said in a statement.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Hollande after the statement’s release, Merkel confirmed that if the presidential election does not go ahead, “we are ready to take further sanctions against Russia.”
Western governments have blamed Russia of deliberately fomenting unrest in Ukraine – a charge the Kremlin has denied. The European Union has imposed asset freezes and visa bans targeting 48 Russians and Ukrainians since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in March. At a meeting in Brussels on March 6, EU leaders agreed that any further sanctions against Russia will target areas such as energy, defence, financial services and engineering for the first time.
Hollande and Merkel also called on Ukrainian government forces to halt their offensive against pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east in the run up to the presidential election.
Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election is seen as a means of establishing a fully legitimate, democratically elected government, three months after the country’s former president, Viktor Yanukovich, fled following mass protests against his leadership.
While Hollande and Merkel acknowledged Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments earlier this week supporting the election and appealing to pro-Russian separatists in the east to suspend a planned autonomy referendum on Sunday, they called on him to do more.
“The Russian president has to send more signals of de-escalation,” Merkel said. Hollande added that he and Merkel were both doing all they could to impress on Putin what is at stake now in Ukraine.
The two leaders called for a “visible” withdrawal of Russian forces from the Ukrainian border, where the Kremlin has massed an estimated 40,000 troops, asserting the right to invade Ukraine to protect Russian-speakers if necessary. Putin announced earlier this week that Russian forces on the Ukrainian border had been ordered to withdraw, but NATO, the Pentagon and the White House said they had not seen any evidence of a pull-out.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-05-10