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Ukraine

Ukrainian prime minister says Crimea referendum 'illegitimate'

Ukraine's prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has called Crimea’s planned referendum to join the Russia Federation "illegitimate." The Black Sea peninsula remains an "integral" part of Ukraine, he said.

In a press conference in Brussels on Thursday, Ukrainian premier Yatsenyuk urged Moscow to withdraw its troops to their barracks in Crimea and to end its support for separatism on the peninsula.

"We urge the Russian government to pull back its military into barracks, not to support an illegitimate so-called government of Crimea and to start real talks and negotiations of the peaceful solution," Yatsenyuk said.

Earlier in the day, Crimea's parliament voted unanimously in favor of becoming part of Russia, the RIA news agency reported, citing the text of the decision.

It was agreed "to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation," said the decision. The peninsula will vote in a March 16 popular referendum on its political status.

"This is an illegitimate decision and this so-called referendum has no legal grounds at all,” Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said. "That's the reason why we urge the Russian government not to support those who claim separatism in Ukraine."

"Crimea was, is, and will be an integral part of Ukraine," he said.

slk/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)