Kerry says 'Crimea is Ukraine' after lawmakers vote to join Russia
US Secretary of State John Kerry insisted Thursday that "Crimea is Ukraine", after pro-Moscow lawmakers on the tense peninsula voted to have their region become part of Russia.
"Crimea is part of the Ukraine. Crimea is Ukraine. And we support the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the government of Ukraine needs to be involved in any decision" on whether the peninsula would split off, he told journalists in Rome.
"It's my understanding that the constitution of Ukraine requires an all-Ukraine referendum. Every part of Ukraine, all Ukrainians, would have to be part of a referendum," he said.
His comments came after US President Barack Obama warned that a referendum in Crimea on joining Russia would violate Ukrainian sovereignty and international law.
However, Kerry said the United States' priority was to "continue the intense discussions with both sides in order to try to normalize and end this crisis".
Though the United States would "keep faith" with sanctions already put in place -- such as visa bans and the freezing of assets belonging to those deemed to have played a part in destabilizing Ukraine -- the emphasis in "the next few hours and days" was for dialogue that could lead to a de-escalation of the situation.
"While we reserve the right to take steps beyond those things that were announced today, we want President Putin and Russia and everyone to understand our preference is to get back to a normality," he said.
© 2014 AFP