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Yulia Tymoshenko: 'Kremlin has declared war'

Ukraine's former prime minister says the international community should not allow Russia to force a Crimea referendum.

Last updated: 08 Mar 2014 13:47
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"There are no politicians in Ukraine today who have not come from the existing power structure," says Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko; and the same words could also apply to her.

Tymoshenko became a lightning rod during the country's so called Orange Revolution - the public uprising that shook the country's political establishment after allegations of unfair elections in 2004.

Today it is not Ukraine that will lose Crimea. The whole world, if it is not reacting to the situation, will actually lose stability. And I think all top leaders in the world should be aware of this. The Kremlin today has declared war. Not on Crimea. Not on Ukraine. But on the whole world.

Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister of Ukraine

She quickly attracted public support even though her background was anything but common. She was a successful businesswoman; one of the country's richest after a career in the gas industry. She was also marred by allegations of illegal business deals.

But she claimed she wanted to rid the country of corruption, and many believed it would take a former insider like her to do it. When she was elected prime minister, the world took notice.

However, in 2010 her political career seemed to come to an end. She lost her bid for the presidency and soon thereafter faced allegations of embezzlement and was eventually sent to prison. Her supporters, including many leaders in Europe, said those charges were politically motivated.

Last month the new government in Ukraine released her. Now at yet another pivotal moment in her nation's history, Tymoshenko is once again in the centre of it all.

On the latest crisis affecting her country, she says the entire world will lose stability if there is no reaction to the situation in Crimea.

"I think that today it is not Ukraine that will lose Crimea. The whole world, if it is not reacting to the situation, will actually lose stability. And I think all top leaders in the world should be aware of this. The Kremlin today has declared war. Not on Crimea. Not on Ukraine. But on the whole world," she tells Al Jazeera.

When asked if diplomacy has really worked to settle the issue and whether the world can afford to spend more time on Ukraine’s crisis, she says: "The one thing world leaders must not do at the moment is to lose time. And they cannot leave Ukraine on its own. The critical date is in March. This is the date of the referendum to be conducted in Crimea on joining Russia.

"If the international community allows this referendum to be held then our struggle would be much more difficult."

Tymoshenko points out that Ukraine faces the risk of entering an armed conflict. But is there any point at which she would ask the rest of the world to intervene militarily?

"When I say that more powerful instruments should be applied I don't mean that a shot should be heard," she says. "It must be like the Cuban missile crisis, when two superpowers clashed. But they ended the conflict peacefully and they kept the whole world quiet."

This week Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former prime minister, joins John Hendren to talk to Al Jazeera about the current crisis in her country and the possible solutions.

Talk to Al Jazeera can be seen each weekat the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430 and 1930; Sunday: 1930; Monday: 1430 .  

Watch more Talk to Al Jazeera

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Al Jazeera
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