In Kiev, Venizelos urges more dialogue as Ukraine and Russia go on war footing

Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos has called for continued dialogue between Ukraine and Russia over Crimea after holding talks with Ukrainian interim president Olexander Turchynov in Kiev on Sunday.

“As the European Union president, and as a state, Greece supports the territorial integrity, independence, sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine,” said Venizelos. “We are following a principled foreign policy that is based on the respect of international law.”

Ukraine mobilized for war on Sunday and Washington threatened to isolate Russia economically, after President Vladimir Putin declared he had the right to invade his neighbour in Moscow's biggest confrontation with the West since the Cold War.

"This is not a threat: this is actually the declaration of war to my country,» Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, head of a pro-Western government that took power when Russian ally Viktor Yanukovich fled last week, said in English.

Putin secured permission from his parliament on Saturday to use military force to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine and told US President Barack Obama he had the right to defend Russian interests and nationals, spurning Western pleas not to intervene.

Russian forces have already bloodlessly seized Crimea - an isolated Black Sea peninsula where Moscow has a naval base.

On Sunday they surrounded several small Ukrainian military outposts there and demanded the Ukrainian troops disarm. Some refused, leading to standoffs, although no shots were fired.

After his meeting with Turchynov, Venizelos said that relations between Ukraine and Russia were “decisive” for “European and international stability”.

“Everyone must approach this issue with calmness and dialogue within the framework of international law and existing agreements between Ukraine and Russia, and the international community,” he said.

Venizelos also reiterated his concern about a looming economic crisis in Ukraine and repeated calls for an international conference to be held soon to decide how to help the government in Kiev.

The Greek foreign minister added that the assistance should come from “not just the International Monetary Fund.”

“Of course, Greece is ready to provide, through the experience of the crisis we have lived and continue to live, technical know-how to Ukraine.”

Earlier, Venizelos met with members of Ukraine’s Greek community in Mariupol.

[Kathimerini & Reuters]