German chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Moscow's annexation of Crimea undermines the previously unchallenged principle of sovereignty in post-war Europe.
In her toughest remarks yet directed at the Kremlin, the German leader said a failure by Russian president Vladimir Putin to make a credible contribution to de-escalation efforts in Ukraine would lead to further international sanctions.
'President Putin is called upon to call on pro-Russian forces in Ukraine to lay down their weapons,' she said, saying Russian troops on the border exert 'huge pressure on Ukraine'.
The German leader said recent conciliatory signals from Moscow encouraged her that diplomatic efforts remained worthwhile. But she told a Berlin audience that Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula had 'shaken us all' and threatened the territorial integrity that had served - and been accepted - as the post-war order in Europe.
'We have to call these things by their name,' she said. Pointing to the Soviet Union's four-decade annexation of the Baltic countries she said the current crisis would take some time to resolve and that she was 'sometimes surprised at how short-term many people's thinking has become'.
While stepping up her rhetoric, Dr Merkel said Germany would continue to work for a political solution - in particular to ensure the May 25th presidential election was peaceful and democratic.
The Organization for Security and Co-Operation (OSCE) remained the key player in the pre-election period, she said, proposing a round table structure to resolve the crisis, following the model that brought a negotiation political transition in central and eastern Europe in 1989/90.
On Wednesday the German leader warned that those who stirred up conflict over Ukraine's national integrity would 'only damage themselves'.
'In Crimea we're experiencing a regression into old patterns of thinking,' said Dr Merkel at an event commemorating the start of the first World War. 'The answer to globalization is not old patterns of thinking or partition but developing common interests - that's what makes Europe appealing.'
The chancellor criticized Russian plans for a military parade in Crimea today to mark the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany but welcomed Putin's plans to attend the 70th anniversary ceremonies to mark the Normandy landings.
At the podium discussion in Berlin, in the middle of a sentence on Ukraine, Dr Merkel's mobile phone went off in her jacket pocket.
'If it's Putin, we can always take a break,' joked the moderator. 'Certainly not,' she replied drily.
Vladimir Putin’s failure to de-escalate situation in Ukraine will lead to further sanctions, underlined German leader.
Illustration: Gassed by John Singer Sargent / Wiki Commons