Ukraine – Statements by Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at his joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Mr. Matteo Renzi (excerpts) (15 March 2014)

Q. – On Ukraine, Moscow doesn’t seem to be moving towards the de-escalation the European Union wants. Under those circumstances, are you both afraid that Sunday’s referendum in Crimea might be a prelude to a total destabilization of Ukraine? Mr President, can you confirm the cancellation of Tuesday’s Franco-Russian meeting in Moscow? And don’t you think it would be appropriate to suspend the Mistral contract in order to exert pressure on Russia?

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you for all your questions. A pseudo-referendum is being held in Crimea, because it’s not in accordance with the law – Ukrainian domestic law or international law. No referendum can be organized in a part of the country without the government of the country in question being involved in organizing that ballot. But that’s exactly what’s happening. That’s why France, like the EU, won’t recognize the validity of this pseudo-referendum.

On Monday, there’s a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council. A scale of sanctions was defined by the European Council. We were there. And so on Monday, if there’s no de-escalation, those sanctions will be used, which I remind you concern visas and the financial assets of a number of figures. I’d like there to be a de-escalation and therefore a contact group that can find solutions, in the framework of Ukraine’s territorial integrity but also of a recognition of the ties existing between Russia and Ukraine. That’s why the contact group must now be, as it were, in contact. But there still have to be two in order for there to be contact…

On the visit that was planned – a long time ago, because it’s part of the bilateral relations between France and Russia –, I’ll wait until Monday to find out exactly what the Russian position is following the pseudo-referendum in Crimea. As for the other sanctions, particularly linked to military cooperation, those are the third level of sanctions. We’re at the first level. (…)./.

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