UPDATE: G7 leaders warn Russia against Crimea annexation

Kiev (Alliance News) - The leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations warned on ...

Alliance News 12 March, 2014 | 2:20PM
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Kiev (Alliance News) - The leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations warned on Wednesday that the planned referendum on Crimea's accession to Russia was illegal and threatened more sanctions against Moscow if the vote went ahead.

The referendum would be "deeply flawed" and have no moral force because of a lack of adequate preparation and "the intimidating presence of Russian troops", the G7 said in a joint statement with the EU in Brussels.

They added that they would not recognize the outcome.

"An annexation of Crimea would be a clear violation of the United Nations Charter" and could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states, the statement said.

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the EU warned that they would take further action against Russia, "individually and collectively," if the plan goes ahead.

The statement raises doubts over Russia's current presidency of the G8 group of states. G7 leaders have suggested skipping the G8 summit due to be held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in June.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the crisis with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is expected for talks with President Barack Obama in Washington.

Crimea, an autonomous republic inside Ukraine, has openly rebelled against the government in Kiev since a local leadership change in late February, which coincided with the appearance of thousands of unmarked troops, believed to be Russian.

The Crimean parliament on Wednesday backed a declaration of independence, which will go into force if Sunday's referendum results in a vote for accession to Russia. Under Russian law, annexing parts of a sovereign state is not possible without the country's consent.

Moscow has said that it is ready to accept Crimea as a member of its federation of currently 83 regions after Sunday's referendum. It argues that local leaders have asked it to protect the region's ethnic Russian majority.

Crimea's secessionist authorities said Wednesday that they have partially closed the region's airspace to "keep out provocateurs" in the run-up to the March 16 referendum.

All flights to the region from Ukraine and Turkey were cancelled, while flights to and from Moscow were operating normally.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that its military observer mission to Ukraine had arrived in the eastern city of Donetsk. The observers had previously tried to enter Crimea but were refused entry at Russian-manned checkpoints.

Meanwhile, the navies of the US and NATO partners Romania and Bulgaria began military exercises in the Black Sea.

The exercises had been planned before the crisis. According to a Bulgarian naval spokesman, the goal of the war games is to strengthen the "operative compatibility of naval forces of the NATO states."

Participating in the exercises is the US guided-missile destroyer USS Truxton, which entered the Black Sea for the manoeuvres.

Copyright dpa

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