Belgian MEP Mark Demesmaeker urged European Union member states to take a stronger stance against the latest bout of Russian aggression towards Ukraine. Vladimir Putin oversaw the incorporation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea into Russia after a bogus referendum in 2014. On Sunday, the Russian Army fired at three Ukrainian ships passing through the Kerch Strait located between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea – triggering a firm response from the international community.
Mr Demesmaeker insisted the EU and the governments of its member states must adopt “the language of force” to show Mr Putin he will “pay the price” for his attack against Ukraine.
Speaking to Raw Politics, the Belgian politician said: “We have seen a continuous militarisation of Crimea, of the Black Sea, the Azov Sea. We need a bigger presence in the Black Sea.
“It’s the only language he understands. It’s the language of force, we have to deter him.”
Fears of all-out armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine are growing after Sunday’s clashes in the strategic Sea of Azov in which Russian ships opened fire on the Ukrainian vessels before seizing them and capturing 24 sailors.
A Russian cargo ship then dropped anchor beneath a new bridge across the Kerch Strait, blocking maritime access between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk
Mr Desmaeker continued: “Putin just – we have to speak his language. He needs to understand he will pay a price. First of all, you have to extend the sanctions.
“It will work but you have to extend the sanctions.”
NATO has expressed “full support” for Ukraine, which is not a member state but has yet to respond to his latest plea for help.
Heading to a G20 meeting in Argentina, US President Donald Trump announced he would cancel a one-on-one meeting with President Putin after he failed to return both the seized ships and crewmen to Ukraine.
Writing on Twitter, President Trump said: “Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin.
“I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a de-escalation of the tension and dialogue.
Karin Kneissl, the foreign minister of Austria, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, has said any extension of sanctions imposed on Russia over its actions in Ukraine would depend on further information about the incident and how the two sides behave.
Russia said today it would send more of its advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to Crimea and a Reuters reporter saw a Russian warship deploying nearby as tensions with Ukraine rose over Moscow’s seizure of Ukrainian navy ships.
Moscow has steadily poured new military hardware into Crimea since it annexed it from Ukraine in 2014, turning it into what Kremlin-backed media have called a fortress.