Ukraine PM says military ‘ready to protect our country’
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Ukraine’s interim prime minister on Thursday said the country’s armed forces would act if Russia’s military intervention escalated and slammed as “illegitimate” a decision to hold a referendum on whether the region should become part of Russia.
In a news conference in Brussels, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said that any decree making Crimea part of Russia was an illegitimate move and that Crimea was and would remain an integral part of the country.
"This is an illegitimate decision and this so-called referendum has no legal grounds at all. That's the reason why we urge the Russian government not to support those who support separatism in the Ukraine," Yatseniuk said of the vote to be held on March 16th.
"Crimea is was and will be an integral part of Ukraine," he said, while urging Russia to withdraw its military from Crimea.
Yatseniuk added that Ukraine’s armed forces would act if Russian military intervention escalated any further in to Ukraine's territory.
"In case of further escalation and military intervention into the Ukrainian territory by foreign forces, the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian military will act in accordance with the constitution and laws," he said. “We are ready to protect our country.”
Crimea votes to hold referendum
Earlier, the Supreme Council of Crimea, which already enjoys a degree of autonomy under Ukrainian law, voted overwhelmingly to hold a referendum, with 78 votes for, none against and eight abstentions.
“This is our response to the disorder and lawlessness in Kiev,” Sergei Shuvainikov, a member of the Crimean legislature, said Thursday. “We will decide our future ourselves.”
The body also passed a resolution on Thursday formally asking Vladimir Putin to take Crimea back into Russia.
Yatseniuk's position was supported by the US, which said any referendum in Crimea without the involvement of the Ukrainian government in Kiev would violate international law.
"It is the belief of the United States that decisions about Crimea or any part of Ukraine needs to be made with the government in Kiev," a US official told reporters. "This is a country with clearly defined borders and ultimately only the people of Ukraine can make determinations about their political future.
"You can't have a situation in which the legitimate government of the country is excluded from decision-making about different parts of that country. That is clearly a violation of international law."
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)
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