There is growing international alarm about the crisis in the Crimea region. The latest urgent calls for restraint have come from the head of the Western military alliance NATO and Germany’s foreign minister.
The ambassadors representing the 28 member states of the Western military alliance NATO gathered in Brussels on Sunday for an emergency meeting to discuss the growing crisis in Ukraine’s southeastern Crimea region.
Just prior to the talks, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on Russia to take steps to de-escalate the crisis.
"What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the United Nations Charter. It threatens peace and security in Europe. Russia must stop its military activities and its threats," he said.
"And we emphasize the need for Ukraine to continue to uphold the democratic rights of all people and ensure that minority rights are protected.
A separate warning came from German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who issued a statement on Sunday in which he described the current situation as an "extremely dangerous path of an increase in tensions" between Moscow and Kyiv.
At the same time, though, he said there was still a chance for cooler heads to prevail.
"A change in direction is still possible," he said. "A new division in Europe can still be avoided."
Steinmeier also called on Russia to "refrain from any breach of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine."
Like Rasmussen, the German foreign minister also called on the new leadership in Kyiv to ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians were respected.
"This includes in particular the clear protection of minorities, including the use of (their) languages," he said.
The latest diplomatic efforts come a day after US President Barack Obama used a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to try to persuade the Kremlin to change course.
pfd/tj (Reuters, APF., dpa)