EU leaders and the international community have strongly condemned Russia's invasion of the Ukrainian region of Crimea, after thousands of Russian troops seized control of the area over the weekend. Ukraine already mobilised for war on Sunday.
EU foreign affairs ministers are meeting on Monday in Brussels to seek for a common response to the crisis, which has already been dubbed the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the fall of the Soviet Union in the late '90.
Describing Russia's actions as something ' unthinkable in the 21st century in Europe', European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso urged Russia to respect Ukraine's unity and sovereignty and to guarantee peace in the region.
“Many contacts have taken place with the Ukrainian authorities and also the Russian authorities because we believe it is very important to show our commitment to the sovereignty of Ukraine. (…) We are working in the economic field as a matter of urgency trying to articulate with our partners internationally support for that country but also politically to do everything that we can to avoid escalation, to avoid the lack of respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine and I believe this is shared by all European countries. We will see this today when they meet at foreign affairs, ministers' level.” said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso during the "New Narrative for Europe" event in Berlin on Monday.
In an initial response to the Ukrainian crisis, the European Union confirmed on Monday that, together with the other G7 members, it will not participate in the upcoming G8 summit to be held in Sochi next June.
But while the U.S has threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin to economically isolate Russia, diplomats say that Europe will most likely only play a mediating role between Moscow and Kiev.
“Russia's actions contravene the values under which the G7 and the G8 operate, we have decided with the other members of the G7 to suspend our participation in the activities associated to the upcoming G8 meeting in Sochi.” said European Commission spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen
Russia is the EU's most important trading partner after the United States and China, with European businesses exporting €123 billion in 2012.
It is also the EU's most important supplier of energy products, accounting for more than a quarter of all EU consumption of oil and gas.