The European Union's top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, said on Monday that Europe needs to send the "strongest possible signals" to Russia when deciding whether to impose sanctions over Crimea.
"We are trying to send the strongest possible signals to Russia, a signal trying to ensure that they (the Russians) understand the seriousness of the situation" the day after the "so-called referendum" on Crimea, Ashton said ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
Ministers are expected to agree at the talks on "targeted" sanctions against Russian or pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders, which could include visa restrictions and an asset freeze.
"I call upon Russia, yet again, to meet with the Ukrainian leaders and to start dialogue with them, and to try to move towards de-escalation as quickly as possible," Ashton said, adding that so far she has seen "no evidence" of that occurring.
"Ukraine wants to have good relations with Russia, and so does the EU and the rest of the world," Ashton said.