March 7th, 2014
04:46 AM ET

Ukraine PM: Crimea 'Was, Is and Will Be An Integral Part of Ukraine'

We're leaving. No, you're not.

That's where the crisis in Ukraine stood Thursday after lawmakers in Crimea voted in favor of leaving the country for Russia and putting it to a regional vote in 10 days.

This act drew widespread condemnation, with Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk calling such a referendum "an illegitimate decision."

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

It was a sentiment echoed by several world leaders, who called the scheduled vote and possible pullout violations of Ukrainian and international law.

"Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine," said U.S. President Barack Obama. "In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders."

It's not clear how easily the region could split off from Ukraine even if the referendum endorses the move.

The developments came at a dizzying pace Thursday as Yatsenyuk joined emergency talks in Brussels, Belgium, called by leaders of the European Union who support the Kiev government and want to de-escalate the crisis.

The EU and the United States announced plans to freeze the assets of Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted as Ukraine's president after he turned his back on a trade deal with the EU in favor of one with Russia.

The rejected trade deal prompted months of protests that culminated in February with bloody street clashes that left dozens dead and Yanukovych out of office.

Interpol said it is reviewing a request by Ukrainian authorities that would allow for the arrest of Yanukovych on charges of abuse of power and murder, an allegation tied to the death of protesters.

Moscow has denounced the events that led to Yanukovych's ouster as an illegitimate coup and has refused to recognize the new Ukrainian authorities, putting the two countries on a collision course over control of the Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea that has long ties to Russia and has thousands of Russian troops stationed there.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted he has the right to use military force in Ukraine if necessary to protect ethnic Russians under threat in Crimea. Ukrainian officials say no such threat exists and say Putin is using it as a pretext to control the region.

As the standoff continued, Ukrainian authorities announced the arrest Thursday of a leader of a pro-Russian movement in the eastern city of Donetsk. Authorities said he is a Ukrainian national named Pavlo Gubarev, a self-proclaimed governor of Donetsk.

For more, visit  CNN.com. 

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