Ukraine's acting president said on Thursday that the country would block the Crimean regional parliament's decision to hold a referendum which would ask voters whether or not they want join Russia.
In a televised statement Oleksandr Turchynov described the referendum, planned for March 16, as “illegitimate”, describing the parliament as being controlled by Russian troops.
Stating that the decision was against the Ukrainian people's interests and will, he said that Ukrainian territory “is inviolable and it is sovereign,” adding: "It is a crime against the state which is organized by the Russian Federation's military."
Speaking to the media on Thursday Ukraine’s interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said: “This so-called referendum has no legal grounds at all.” He added: “Crimea was, is and will be an integral part of Ukraine.”
Yatsenyuk had earlier dismissed claims that Ukraine was discussing NATO membership, following a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels.
"It is not on our radar," Yatsenyuk told reporters. He also stated that the crisis should be resolved with peaceful resolutions. Yatsenyuk said that he had invited NATO representatives to Kiev.
- Davutoglu: "Ukraine's territorial integrity and its political unity is essential for Turkey"
Meanwhile, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said that Ukraine's territorial integrity and its political unity was essential for Turkey.
Speaking after attending the International Ministerial Conference on Support to Libya in Rome, Davutoglu stated that Turkey had a “principled attitude” to the Ukraine issue.
Stating that the Crimean parliament's referendum decision would not help to provide stability, Davutoglu added: "An inclusive government, which does not exclude the east and south of Ukraine, should be formed in Kiev and it should organize elections."
Responding to a question by reporters regarding U.S. ships which are en route to the Black Sea, Davutoglu said: "The articles of Montreux are clear about the issue. We implement the articles of the Montreux convention exactly. We always show respect to international law."
Two Russian and a Ukrainian warship entered the Black Sea via Istanbul on Tuesday. Turkish authorities gave permission to a U.S. Navy warship to pass through the Bosphorus on Thursday.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the parliament's decision to hold a referendum would not contribute to a resolution of the crisis in Ukraine, claiming the vote could have dangerous consequences resulting in serious chasms among different groups in Crimea.
"We would like to reiterate that the political crisis in Ukraine can only be resolved through negotiations and dialogue," the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, the Crimean Tatar National Assembly issued a statement Thursday calling on Crimeans to boycott the referendum, describing it as "illegal".