World Bulletin/News Desk
Crimea's parliament has the right to hold a referendum on the region's future status and if its people vote to join Russia, Russia's upper house of parliament will support their decision, the assembly's speaker said on Friday.
Dismissing suggestions that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine, Valentina Matviyenko supported the decision by parliament in Ukraine's southern region on Thursday to hold a referendum on joining Russia on March 16.
"Yesterday we learned about the historic decision taken by the Crimean parliament to hold a referendum on accession, on entry into the Russian Federation," said Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Russian Federation Council.
"Without a doubt, the Crimean parliament, as a legitimate authority, has that right ... The sovereign right of the people to determine their future," she said, welcoming a delegation from Crimea which included the region's new Moscow-installed leader, Vladimir Konstantinov.
"If the people of Crimea take the decision in the referendum to join Russia, we, as the upper house, will of course support such a decision," said Matviyenko.
"It's complete nonsense, it absolutely does not reflect our intentions, the feelings of empathy and the pain we feel for the Ukrainian people," she said.
"We are absolutely sure that there will never be a war between the two brotherly nations."
"Regardless of all the efforts of our president, his readiness to explain Russia's position practically on a daily basis, we still hit a wall of no understanding," Peskov said in comments due to broadcast on state television Rossiya 24 on Sunday.
"It is rather sad and what is worse is that it is very bad from the point of view of possible repercussions."
France's foreign minister said on Friday that if a first round of sanctions did not succeed against Russia in the wake of its military intervention in Ukraine, a second could follow, targeting Russian businesses and people close to President Vladimir Putin.
"If there are not very swift results, there will be new measures aimed at those responsible and Russian businesses," Laurent Fabius told France Info radio.
"It could be freezing assets, it could be cancellations, it could be refusing visas," he added, without elaborating.
Fabius called the situation in Ukraine "a serious crisis, maybe one of the most serious since the Cold War".
Fabius said any new move by Russia to bring Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority, formally under its control could have "grave consequences" for relations between Russia and Europe.
"There will be no more international stability if a region ... because it's solicited by a neighbouring country, can decide to change its borders and attach itself to its neighbour," Fabius added.
Any deterioration of economic ties between Russia and its trading partners could be a "very big blow" to Moscow, Fabius said, adding that any new sanctions could target Putin's inner circle.
An emergency EU summit on Thursday resulted in only minor steps - a suspension of talks with Moscow on visas and a new investment pact - but warned of tougher steps if there was no negotiated solution to the Ukraine crisis.
U.S. President Barack Obama went further, ordering sanctions against figures responsible for the military intervention in Ukraine, including travel bans and a freezing of their assets in the United States, although a U.S. official said Putin was not on the list.
Sanctions are not the best way to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, China's foreign ministry said on Friday, after Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia, in a dramatic escalation of the crisis in the region.
China and Russia, both permanent members of the United Nations' Security Council, have close ties and see eye-to-eye on many global diplomatic issues, such as the crisis in Syria.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said it was important to find a political solution.
"China has consistently opposed the easy use of sanctions in international relations, or using sanctions as a threat," he told a daily news briefing.
"In the present situation, we hope that all sides can take steps which avoid a further worsening in tensions and work hard to find a way for a political solution to the crisis. This is the fundamental way out."
Asked if China also believed the referendum in Crimea would be a breach of international law, Qin did not answer directly.
"We call on all sides in Ukraine to peacefully resolve the relevant issue within a legal, orderly framework via dialogue and negotiations and earnestly safeguard the interests of all the people in Ukraine and bring order back as soon as possible and maintain peace and stability in this region."
He did not elaborate.
China has so far shown little public interest in participating in any financial aid for Ukraine, or getting involved diplomatically, in line with its low-key approach to many international crises.
The foreign ministry has said it will not interfere in what it considers an internal affair and it respects the Ukrainian people's decisions, adding that it would like to continue to develop "friendly cooperation" with Ukraine.
It has also said that China respected Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich visited China in December in the hope of winning much-needed financial aid, but China did not say it would provide any loans.
Yanukovich, who was overthrown last month after three months of street protests, said at the time that deals signed with China might bring Ukraine about $8 billion in investment.