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“We believe that military presence should be increased on NATO borders until Russia starts behaving in a civilized manner,” Rinkevics said in Rome.
He said the Ukrainian crisis and the Eastern Partnership program will be in the focus of the republic’s EU presidency that it will take over from Italy in early 2015.
The Eastern Partnership program is an EU project to develop ties with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
“But if the reached agreements are not fulfilled, the only lever of pressure is sanctions,” Rinkevics said.
“Latvia may lose a lot in economic terms, taking into account deep relations of our country with Russia, but without sanctions the situation may worsen,” the minister said.
The West led by the United States has subjected some Russian officials and companies to sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, following Crimea’s incorporation by Russia in mid-March after a referendum in which most Crimeans voted for reunification with Russia.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s accession to Russia.Russia has received repeated Western threats of further punitive measures, including economic ones, for Crimea and what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests of federalization supporters in Ukraine’s embattled Southeast.
Moscow has dismissed the involvement claims and rejected the language of sanctions saying it would strike back at Western nations.
The situation in Ukraine has been unstable after a coup occurred in the country and new people were brought to power amid riots and ultranationalist rhetoric in February 2014.
Massive protests against the coup-imposed authorities started in Ukraine’s southeastern regions after Crimea refused to recognize the new Ukrainian leaders and reunified with Russia in mid-March after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.
Hundreds of people, including civilians, have been killed, buildings have been destroyed and tens of thousands have been forced to cross the border from Ukraine to Russia as a result of Kiev’s military operation against federalization supporters in Ukraine’s Southeast involving armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation, conducted since mid-April.
The Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which border on Russia, held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine. South Ossetia has recognized the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR). No other countries have followed suit so far.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who had won the May 25 early presidential election in Ukraine and taken office on June 7, on Friday extended by three days a weeklong ceasefire in Ukraine’s embattled Southeast announced on June 20. There have been numerous reports that the truce has been violated.