Crimean Tatar leader wants arms for Ukraine forces

Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev says Western powers should arm Ukrainians as Russia marks Crimea annexation anniversary.

Crimean Tatar leader wants arms for Ukraine forces

World Bulletin / News Desk 

As Washington debates whether to send lethal weaponry to the Ukrainian army, Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev says Western powers should do precisely that.

"We need to increase the defense of Ukraine and strengthen Ukraine," Dzhemilev told a conference in Brussels on Wednesday during the anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea on March 18.

"Western countries say they do not want to give weapons to Ukraine; we don't understand this," Dzhemilev added.

The top U.S. Commander in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that arming Ukraine would help the country on the battlefield in the short term but was not enough to ensure it does not lose more territory as it did with the annexation of Crimea.

Hodges said in Washington on Tuesday: "Providing weapons is not a strategy."

"There are great arguments for giving weapons to them to help raise the cost for the Russians. I think that is a valid argument. But saying that’s a valid argument is different from saying that this ought to be the policy," Hodges said.

Germany has warned that arming Ukraine could trigger an escalation of the crisis in the eastern part of the country.

"We have a country [Russia], which has 30 times higher forces than Ukraine. They spend a lot of money on the latest military equipment," Dzhemilev -- also a Ukrainian member of parliament -- said.

"And when we are told that Ukraine should not be given weapons, we do not understand that -- does this mean should we be killed because we do not protect ourselves?" he added.


- More sanctions

Despite Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany signing a second peace accord, also called the Minsk agreement, on February 12, fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian soldiers has still been observed by international monitors.

Although Western sanctions imposed on Russia may have affected its economy, they have not changed its policy towards the crisis in Ukraine.

However, Dzhemilev said he hoped the European Union and the U.S. would still impose more sanctions.

"We feel the economic sanctions do have their effect; the economic situation in Russia gets worse everyday," he said.

"If the sanctions continue, Russia will have to understand it has to behave itself as a civilized country, not as a gangster country," Dzhemilev added.


- EU division over Russia sanctions

A European Union foreign ministers' meeting Monday highlighted divisions on Russian sanctions.

"There is no need to decide now on Russia sanctions -- they are still ongoing until summer," Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told reporters in Brussels.

"Sanctions are a means of pressure, not a goal as such. Extension of sanctions depends on the situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine," Kurz added.

However, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said: "Sanctions must stay, definitely. It's the only way we can keep pressure, and pressure must be kept. It's quite obvious."

EU heads of government are set to gather in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to discuss the Ukraine crisis.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Mart 2015, 15:02