MOSCOW, March 7 (RIA Novosti) – Russia accused the European Union on Friday of taking an “extremely unconstructive stance” on the Ukrainian political crisis by freezing negotiations with Russia on a visa-free regime and a new cooperation agreement.
“Russia does not accept the language of sanctions and threats, but if they are imposed they will not remain unanswered,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The leaders of the 28 EU member states who gathered Thursday for an extraordinary meeting in Brussels agreed on a three-step series of sanctions to punish Russia for a contested military incursion in Ukraine’s Crimea region.
The leaders agreed that the punishment should start with an immediate suspension of talks on a new comprehensive economic and political pact with Russia.
The turbulent political crisis in Ukraine has led to the current standoff between Russia and the West over the fate of Crimea, an autonomous Ukrainian region with a majority ethnic Russian population.
Crimean authorities have refused to recognize as legitimate the new central government in Kiev, which ousted President Viktor Yanukovych late last month, and on Thursday they announced a decision to become part of Russia.
Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk, said Thursday that the Crimean parliament’s decision to secede was an “illegitimate,” and he accused Russia of undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Ukraine has lost control of Crimea in recent days as thousands of troops without insignia swarmed the area, taking control of administration buildings and taking over military bases.
Though the troops speak Russian and have Russian military equipment and license plates, the Kremlin denied they were Russian, saying they were local militias.