France, Britain, Germany voice alarm over Crimea situation

by Reuters
Saturday, 1 March 2014 12:49 GMT

PARIS, March 1 (Reuters) - France, Germany and Britain expressed alarm on Saturday over fast-moving developments in Ukraine's Crimea, urging all sides to avoid further escalation and calling on Russia to respect Ukraine's sovereignty.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk on Saturday accused Russia of sending thousands of troops to the southern Crimea region. Armed men wearing combat uniforms with no identification have taken control of two airports in the area.

"France is extremely concerned by the reports from Crimea, which describe significant troop movements," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement. "We call on the parties to abstain from acts that could raise tensions and affect Ukraine's territorial unity."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he had spoken to his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to call for a de-escalation of the situation.

Hague said on Friday he would travel to Ukraine on Sunday to hold talks with Ukraine's new leadership, a week after Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in Kiev.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that developments in Ukraine over the past few hours were dangerous and urged Russia to explain its intentions regarding the troop movements.

"The situation in Crimea in particular has become considerably more acute. Whoever pours more oil onto the flames now, with words or actions, is consciously aiming for further escalation of the situation," he said.

Russia says any movements by its military in Crimea are in line with agreements with Ukraine in the lease of a naval base in the port city of Sevastopol, and Moscow has accused Kiev of trying to destabilise the Black Sea peninsula.

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