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The European Union calls on Russia to return to developing a strategic partnership with the EU. There is still time to reverse current developments. Opportunities exist to avoid a negative spiral.

The European Union remains ready to support facilitating dialogue between Ukraine and Russia. The EU is ready for a constructive dialogue with all sides, committed to the objective of developing the EU-Russia relationship, based on mutual interest and respect for international law.

The Council strongly condemns the holding of an illegal referendum in Crimea on joining the Russian Federation on 16 March, in clear breach of the Ukrainian Constitution. The EU does not recognise the illegal “referendum” and its outcome.

It also takes note of the draft opinion of the Venice Commission on this “referendum”. The Council urges the Russian Federation not to take steps to annex Crimea in violation of international law.

AT THE FOREIG AFFAIRS Council meeting in Brussels, 17 March 2014. The Council recalls the statement of the EU Heads of State and Government of 6 March which set out that negotiations between Ukraine and Russia needed to start within a few days, including through multilateral mechanisms, and produce results within a limited timeframe.

The Council adopted the following conclusions on Ukraine:

Examples of The Council conclusions on Ukraine include:

The European Union remains ready to support facilitating dialogue between Ukraine and Russia. The Council urge Russia to take steps to de-escalate the crisis, immediately withdraw its forces back to their pre-crisis numbers and garrisons in line with its international commitments, begin direct discussions with the government of Ukraine and avail itself of all relevant international mechanisms to find a peaceful and negotiated solution, in full respect of its bilateral and multilateral commitments to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In this respect, the EU regrets that the UNSC was not able to adopt a resolution, owing to a veto by the Russian Federation.

The Council considers that there is an urgent need for an international presence on the ground throughout Ukraine, including in Crimea. The Council supports the swift deployment of an OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

The Council welcomes the Commission’s proposal for temporarily removing customs duties on Ukrainian exports to the EU and looks forward to its swift adoption.

It furthermore looks forward to the signing of the political provisions of the Association Agreement on 21 March in Brussels and confirms its commitment to proceed to the signature and conclusion of the remaining parts of the Agreement which together with the political provisions constitute a single instrument.

These steps will confirm Ukraine’s free and sovereign decision to pursue Ukraine’s political association and economic integration with the European Union.

The European Union is ready to stand by Ukraine and committed to provide strong financial support to its economic and financial stabilisation, as presented by the European Commission in its assistance package to Ukraine.

The EU also confirmed its readiness to continue to assist Ukraine in securing its energy supply through further diversification, enhanced energy efficiency, and effective interconnections with the European Union.

The European Union commends the measured response shown so far by Ukraine. The EU again encourages the Ukrainian authorities to implement an inclusive process, to pursue their efforts to ensure free and fair elections and to advance constitutional reform. All human rights violations and acts of violence need to be properly investigated and measures need to be stepped up to combat impunity. In this context, the EU looks forward to the early establishment of the Council of Europe International Advisory Panel.

The EU also calls on the Ukrainian authorities to continue to reach out to all Ukrainian regions and population groups and to ensure the full protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, drawing on the expertise of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. It also supports the Council of Europe tasking of its Advisory Committee for the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities to review the situation of national minorities in Ukraine.