Ukraine’s former prime minister has urged Europe to take strong action over Crimea’s attempt to join Russia, saying her country was too weak to fend for itself.
Yulia Tymoshenko made the remarks on Thursday at a meeting of the European People’s Party, the largest bloc in the European Parliament.
“If there is no timely support of Ukraine, real support, then it is difficult to forecast the consequences of inaction,” she said.
The former leader’s appeal came hours after the parliament of the Ukrainian region of Crimea voted to join Russia.
Lawmakers in Crimea unanimously declared they wanted to join Russia and would put the decision to voters in 10 days.
The new Ukrainian government, however, has declared the planned vote illegal, and opened a criminal investigation against Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Askyonov.
On Wednesday, Tymoshenko called on the West to increase pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops from the autonomous Crimea region.
She said the United States and Britain must engage directly with Russia and use “the most powerful tools” to ensure that Russian troops leave the Crimean Peninsula.
Russia sent its troops to Crimea after the Russian parliament gave the green light to President Vladimir Putin to use armed forces “to protect Russia’s interests in that region.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow would have to respond in such situations that are provoked by “Washington’s rash and irresponsible actions.”
Tymoshenko, who has become one of the symbols of the pro-Western movement in Ukraine, is one of the favorites to become the country’s next president.
Political crisis erupted in Ukraine in November 2013 after the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, refrained from signing the Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
On February 23, the Ukrainian parliament ousted Yanukovych and named Oleksandr Turchynov, the legislature’s newly-elected speaker, as interim president.