Updated: Saturday, 11th July 2020 @ 7:39am

Vladimir Putin's annex of Crimea is 'unacceptable' and only tough sanctions will stop him, claims ex-Belgian PM

Vladimir Putin's annex of Crimea is 'unacceptable' and only tough sanctions will stop him, claims ex-Belgian PM

| By Alex Lanigan – MM exclusive

Vlamidir Putin is an autocrat who must have tough sanctions placed on his immediate circle to control him, a former Belgian Prime Minister told MM after a Manchester conference.

Guy Verhofstadt, a leading candidate for the European Union commission presidency, stressed that solidarity among EU member states was needed to resolve the Crimean crisis.

The 60-year-old, who was in Manchester to discuss ‘challenges to Europe’ at Manchester University on Friday, said that Putin’s decision to annex Crimea was ‘unacceptable’.

He called on the European Union to launch sanctions on the Russian President’s immediate circle. 

“The most important thing is to launch sanctions against those people in the immediate circle around Putin,” he told MM.

“The first list published was laughable; it was 21 people without any significance.

“Now they are trying to change that, the American’s did that, the European’s did that but you have to go a little bit further. You need to also tackle the oligarchs who are having influence on Putin, if you freeze their assets or their bank assets that can create pressure on Putin.

“We have to be tough on him, otherwise he shall continue. He is not a democrat he is an autocrat who will try and be in power for the next 50 years.”

Putin signed a law formalising Russia’s takeover of Crimea from Ukraine late last week despite EU and US sanctions.

Verhofstadt has been a member of the European Parliament since 2009, having previously been the Prime Minister of Belgium from 1999-2008 and is campaigning to become the President of the EU Commission.

The leader of the Group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is a committed federalist and believes that conflict in Crimea is a perfect illustration of why there needs to be more integration within the Union to help overcome crisis.  

“If we had a got a common energy policy we would be less dependent on Russia,” he said, explaining that 25% of all gas consumed in Europe comes from Russia.

“If we had made a real common integrated policy we would be independent from them. America are independent, they are exporters of energy. We are still importers of energy because of a lack of common energy policy.”   

Image courtesy of Alberto Novi, with thanks.