CEE, Nordic, Baltic mins condemn Crimea vote plans, call for EU mission

by Reuters
Friday, 7 March 2014 11:22 GMT

(Adds Polish formin, background)

NARVA, Estonia, March 7 (Reuters) - Foreign ministers from central Europe, the Baltics and Nordics condemned on Friday Russia's military intervention in Ukraine and a planned referendum planned by Crimea's government, calling for the EU to send an observation mission to Kiev.

The group of countries, many of them sharing land borders with Russia or the Ukraine and living with the memory of Soviet rule, have taken a tough line in the face of Moscow as the crisis has escalated.

"Nordic and Baltic countries and the Visegrad countries' foreign ministers condemned today ... the attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and also condemned the illegal referendum on the joining of Crimea with Russia," the ministers said in joint statement from the meeting.

Foreign ministers from Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, known as the Visegrad Four, and from the Nordics and Baltics met at the Estonian town of Narva on the Russian border.

Crimea's parliament voted on Thursday to join Russia, and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum in 10 days, escalating of the crisis over the Ukrainian region drawing fierce criticism from U.S. President Barack Obama.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said the European Union needed to strengthen its defence policy and upgrade crisis management capabilities in the wake of the events on its borders.

"It is a challenge we did not wish for, but is knocking at our doors," he said. (Reporting by Marcin Goettig and David Mardiste; writing by Niklas Pollard; Editing by Alistair Scrutton)

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