The European Council issued a statement on March 17 in which it condemned the "illegal referendum" of March 16 in Crimea on joining the Russian Federation. A release from the council said the deliberative body "strongly condemns the holding of an illegal referendum in Crimea", which is "in clear breach of the Ukrainian Constitution."
Having taken notice of the recent Venice Commission on this “referendum,” the Council objected to "the visible presence of armed soldiers under conditions of intimidation of civic activists and journalists, blacking out of Ukrainian television channels and obstruction of civilian traffic in and out of Crimea. Furthermore, there have been clear signs of increasing Russian military build-up in Crimea as well as denial of access to the peninsula to UN and OSCE representatives and missions invited by the government of Ukraine."
The statement said that the European Union deplores these "negative developments, which are in clear violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The Council statement recalled the agreement of March 6 to bring about negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. However, because of the presence of Russian forces not only in Crimea but also on the Ukrainian mainland, the EU Council has decided to "to introduce additional measures, including travel restrictions and an asset freeze against persons responsible for actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, including actions on the future status of any part of the territory which are contrary to the Ukrainian Constitution, and persons, and entities associated with them."
The EU is calling for dialogue between Ukraine and Russia while it is demanding that Russia should "de-escalate the crisis, immediately withdraw its forces back to their pre-crisis numbers and garrisons in line with its international commitments, begin direct discussions with the government of Ukraine and avail itself of all relevant international mechanisms to find a peaceful and negotiated solution, in full respect of its bilateral and multilateral commitments to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Similarly, the EU expressed regret that the United Nations Security Council was not able to adopt a resolution about the crisis, due to Russia's veto.
Both the US and the UK have also expressed strong words and threatened sanctions to resolve the crisis.