Allies of Ukraine express concern over its unrest
U.S. and European officials expressed concern on Thursday over the turmoil in Ukraine and Russia’s decision to have its military conduct large-scale military exercises near Ukraine’s borders.
Here are some of their comments:
After pro-Russian gunmen stormed offices of Ukraine’s strategic region of Crimea, Ukraine, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said: “I warn those who have done this, and those who have facilitated it, that regional conflicts begin this way.” This is “a very dangerous game,” he was quoting as saying on the website of the TVN24 television in Warsaw. Sikorski has played an important diplomatic role during talks in Kiev, Ukraine, along with his German and French counterparts.
Speaking at a news conference after a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said: “These are difficult times, but these are times for cool, wise leadership on Russia’s side and everyone’s side.” Hagel cited concerns that Russia could act in a way that would lead to miscalculation during a “delicate time” in Ukraine.
The leaders of both countries warned Russia not to interfere in Ukraine. “Every country should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Ukraine,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in London. Merkel agreed that “the issue of territorial integrity of Ukraine is of central importance.” She said she had spoken to Vladimir Putin and believed “Russia is of the same view as we are on this matter.” Cameron insisted the fate of Ukraine was not “a zero-sum game ... It is not about forcing the Ukrainian people to choose between Russia and Europe.”
“The situation is very dangerous and it is necessary to prevent its escalation at any cost,” Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said of Ukraine. He said diplomats from his country, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland are heading to Ukraine for talks with its new president, Oleksandr Turchynov, on Friday. Zaoralek also told Czech public television the trip will not include the Crimea region because “nobody is able to ensure our security” there.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said preserving peace and stability in Ukraine for the sake of its democratic future is very important to Turkey, which is located on the other side of the Black Sea from Crimea. Speaking during a visit to Bulgaria, he called Ukraine an important partner and said he would visit Kiev in the next few days.
AP correspondents Jill Lawless in London, Karel Janicek in Prague, Robert Burns in Brussels, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this report.