Ukraine says will never recognise Crimea integration into Russia
KIEV - Agence France-Presse
Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk (back-R) and ministers attend the cabinet sittings in Kiev on March 16, 2014. AFP PhotoUkraine will never recognise Russia's annexation of Crimea, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Kiev said Tuesday, quoted by news agency Interfax-Ukraine.
"We do not recognise and will never recognise the so-called independence and so-called agreement on Crimea's integration into Russia," said Yevgen Perebyinis, adding that the signed accord had "nothing to do with democracy, rule of law or common sense."
Ukraine PM says no plans to join NATO
Ukraine's new Western-backed prime minister said that the ex-Soviet country had no plans to join NATO following last month's fall of a pro-Kremlin regime.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk delivered a special address to the nation designed to ease tensions between Ukrainian nationalists who spearheaded three months of protests against the pro-Moscow authorities and Russian speakers who view the new pro-European government in Kiev with mistrust.
"For the sole purpose of preserving the (social) unity of Ukraine, the issue of (Ukraine's) accession to NATO is not on the agenda," Yatsenyuk said in remarks delivered in Russian and intended specifically for the southeastern parts of his culturally splintered nation of 46 million.
"The country will be defended by a strong and modern Ukrainian army," he said.
Ukraine signed up to a partnership deal with NATO in 1997 after the fall of communism and the end of the Soviet Union but it is not a full member of the military alliance.
Moscow this week unveiled its own plan for settling the Ukrainian crisis that included a provision for its neighbour to assume "a neutral political and military status" whose sovereignty would be guaranteed by Russia as well as the European Union and the United States.
Russian President Vladimir Putin -- in Moscow speaking to both houses of parliament about the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War -- said he remained firmly against NATO's encroachment on his country's western frontier.
"We are not against cooperating with NATO," Putin said in his own live national television appearance.
"We are against (NATO) making itself at home near our fence, near our home and on our historic lands."
Russia and NATO signed a landmark post-Cold War agreement in 1997 in which the two military rivals agreed that they no longer viewed each other as enemies.
But Moscow has been outraged by the Western military bloc's expansion in the past two decades into countries that were once considered Soviet satellite states.
Ukraine's new premier -- in power since the February 22 ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych -- is still due to sign in Brussels on Friday the political portion of a landmark EU pact whose rejection in November sparked the protests that led to the old government's fall.
Yatsenyuk said he had decided to postpone signing the economic portion of the EU Association Agreement because he feared that its tough free-trade terms would negatively affect the factories dotting Ukraine's industrial southeast.
But he also accused Russia of taking aim at Ukrainian regions near its border after pressing ahead with widely condemned plans to absorb the flashpoint Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.
Putin has reserved the right to use force in Ukraine to "protect" ethnic Russians across the vast country.
"Unfortunately, Crimea is not the only region of indivisible Ukraine where foreign forces are trying to destabilise the situation, foment artificial conflicts, organise disturbances and provoke an armed aggression under the pretext of a so-called defence of Russian speakers," Yatsenyuk said.
Yatsenyuk also conceded there were ethnic Russians "who sincerely attend" pro-Kremlin protests and stressed that "we hear and listen to them, especially since they are knocking at an open door."