Foreign minister condemns Russia military build-up on Ukraine borders

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Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets has hit out at the massing of military forces by the Russian Federation, close to its borders with Ukraine. The events have led to a considerable rise in tensions, Liimets said at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers Monday.

"The escalation of the situation in Ukraine has a direct impact on the security of our entire region," Liimets said at the video-linked meeting.

"The EU must send a strong signal to Russia and the international community that actions of this kind have concrete consequences," she went on, according to a ministry press release. "It is completely in Russia's power to deescalate the current situation. I emphasized to my colleagues that a unified, clear and straightforward message on Russia is needed now."

The ministers also expressed their solidarity with their Ukrainian opposite number Dmytro Kuleba.

"Ukraine should be recognized for its extraordinary restraint in the face of the current escalation, and its progress in reform efforts so far. The EU unequivocally supports Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Liimets added.

The EU also adopted a joint statement condemning the treatment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was sentenced to two-and-a-half years' jail time in February. Liimets said that this was not an isolated incident and pointed towards a decline in the human rights situation in that country. The unanimity on the matter and speed with which the statement was adopted was telling, she added.

A similar situation prevailed in Alexander Lukashenko's neighboring Belarus, Liimets noted.

"We are also concerned about the continued violation of human rights in Belarus, including charges against journalists, members of NGOs, lawyers and opposition politicians," she said.

The ministers talked about working on a new package of sanctions with the U.K., the U.S. and Canada, in response to the actions of the Belarusian government.
The union's support for Georgian sovereignty and its current domestic crisis was also on the table, as was the Czech Republic's recent expulsion of Russian embassy intelligence officials, which the ministers also supported.

Further afield, the situation in Ethiopia and Myanmar were also discussed, with violence in the latter discussed and support for additional sanctions against individuals and companies linked to the military coup there expressed.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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