MEPs condemn Russian move on Ukraine

Putin’s recognition of the break-away territories in Ukraine’s east is met with condemnation across the political spectrum
Eric VIDAL | Copyright: © European Union 2022 - Source : EP

By Andreas Rogal

Andreas Rogal is a senior journalist at the Parliament Magazine

22 Feb 2022

The European Parliament has reacted with strong condemnation and a call for further sanctions on Russia after President Vladimir Putin announced he would recognise the independence of two separatist territories in eastern Ukraine and sent Russian troops across the border into Ukraine on Monday.

President Roberta Metsola published a tweet in the evening which was also sent out by the presidents of the Council and of the Commission in the exact same wording:

Almost all the political groups condemned Russia’s actions unequivocally. The exception was the far-right ID Group, whose members were mostly silent on the issue in the usual Twitter and press release forums.

The EPP, the biggest group, called on the Member States to “act swiftly” in the Council:

The S&D Group quoted Marina Kaljurand (EE), the group’s delegate to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly (DEPA), which brings together MEPs with colleagues from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and which is currently in session in the Armenian capital Yerevan:

DEPA chair Andrius Kubilius (EE, EPP), a former prime minister of Lithuania, had called for the new gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany to be abandoned immediately after Putin’s speech.

On Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced to the press that his country would indeed suspend the certification process which is currently being carried out regarding the pipeline, and without which it cannot become operational.

Renew Group president Stéphane Séjourné (FR) called on the Commission to take the initiative in responding to what he called “a violation of Putin's international commitments and a threat to Europe's security”.

In a press statement issued on Tuesday, the Green/EFA Group’s co-presidents Ska Keller (DE) and Philippe Lamberts (BE) called for the EU and the USA to act “in a coordinated and clear manner, including effective sanctions” (Lamberts), and that the Russian president’s further escalation, “trying to rewrite history into an imperial narrative” (Keller) needed to be met with a unified response.

Equally, the two co-presidents of the ECR Group, Ryszard Legutko (PL) and Raffaele Fitto (IT) issued a common press statement, which quotes Legutko with the assessment that “it is quite obvious that the Kremlin will not stop at violating Ukraine's sovereignty and integrity and breaking international law”, and that “further aggression and provocation from Russia alone” could be expected.

“The time for playing patience games is now over”, he concluded. In the same press statement, his co-chair Fitto warned that the Kremlin’s decision “could represent a dangerous point of no return in the Ukrainian crisis”.

The Left Group’s two co-presidents also condemned what Manon Aubry (FR) called the “unilateral recognition of indepence of the Donbas republics”.

Her fellow group chair Martin Schirdewan (DE) told German national broadcaster Deutsche Welle late on Monday evening that Putin’s acting “without any political measure” after signs that “de-escalation was the intention on all sides” represented “the straw that broke the camel’s back” (“das schlägt dem Fass den Boden aus”).

Later on Tuesday, the two co-chairs also issued a joint statement, calling on President Metsola to convene an exceptional meeting of the political leadership of Parliament, the Conference of Presidents, "to discuss this extremely tense situation".

While all political groups in Parliament have MEPs who are usually Russia-friendly, the condemnation by Schirdewan and Aubry marks the most prominent shift from December, when both co-chairs voted against a resolution to condemn Russia’s presence on the Ukraine border in plenary.