OTTAWA, March 06, /ITAR-TASS/. Canada will not recognize the results of a referendum in the Autonomous Ukrainian Republic of Crimea on whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on March 6.
“We will continue to view the situation in Ukraine with the gravest concern and will continue to cooperate closely with our G7 partners and like-minded allies,' Harper said.
Crimea’s parliament made a principled decision for the autonomy to secede from Ukraine and become part of the Russian Federation, putting the issue to a referendum, to be held March 16.
Ukraine’s legitimate president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted in a violent uprising in February. The Ukrainian parliament appointed an interim head of state, set early presidential elections and approved a new government, which Crimea and Russia do not recognize.
The Ukrainian parliament-appointed prime minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk, on Thursday called on Russia not to recognize the Crimean government, saying Crimea “was, is and will be an integral part of Ukraine.” Reuters quoted him as saying the decision on the referendum was “illegitimate.'
Harper also claimed on Thursday that Crimea, which is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in line with a naval base lease deal, and where most residents are Russians, is under "military occupation.'
Top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have denied that Russian armed forces could be involved in any illegal activities in Crimea.
Earlier some media reports said servicemen in uniforms similar to Russian ones without insignia were seen at different locations in Crimea, but Putin told journalists Tuesday that “these were local self-defense units.'
Canada is home to about 1.4 million Ukrainians, who account for about 4 percent of its population.
Harper said Tuesday his country was suspending its military cooperation with Russia over the recent events in Ukraine.