With a troubling buildup of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders, EU foreign ministers restated their full support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said on Monday.
“We urge Russia to de-escalate and to defuse tension,” Josep Borrell told reporters in Brussels, the EU’s de facto capital, after a videoconference of EU foreign ministers.
Calling the situation at Ukraine’s eastern borders “worrisome,” Borrell said: “150,000 Russian troops have massed on Ukraine’s borders and in the Crimea.”
“The Russian military buildup has to stop at Ukraine’s borders,” he said.
Borrell added that the foreign ministers have shown “complete and strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” adding that the bloc continues to reject Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
He confirmed that the EU would be present at the first Crimean Platform meeting on Aug. 23, but did not specify who would represent the bloc at the event after Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, controversially declined Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s invitation to the summit and the celebration of the country’s 30th anniversary.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also joined his European counterparts by a video link.
On social media, he said he had “proposed a step-by-step plan on how to discourage Moscow from further escalation.”
The minister asked the bloc to prepare a new set of sectoral sanctions since “individual ones are not sufficient anymore.”
Russian forces entered the Crimean Peninsula in February 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin formally dividing the region into two separate federal subjects of the Russian Federation the following month.
Turkey, the EU, and the US, as well as the UN General Assembly, view the annexation as illegal.