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France calls for Ukraine's integrity to be respected as Crimea crisis deepens

Armed men enter the Crimean parliament on Friday
Armed men enter the Crimean parliament on Friday Reuters/ATR

France called for Ukraine's territorial integrityy to be "absolutely respected" as the country's new government claimed that Russia was sending 6,000 extra troops to Crimea and refused to recognise the new Crimean prime minister.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin asked the Duma to approve the use of the army in Ukraine on Saturday. An "extraordinary situation" in the country meant a "threat to the lives of Russian citizens, of our compatriots, and of Russian armed forces deployed in Ukraine", he said.

"There is a requirement that must absolutely be respected - the territorial integrity of the country," French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told journalists during
a congress of European social-democrats in Rome. "Everything must be done for this integrity to be totally respected."

He called on political forces in Ukraine and its "partners" to show "a great sense of responsibility".

"Ukrainians want democracy and we can understand that," Ayrault said. "They are turning to Europe, to European democracies. It is Ukrainians who must build their future."

Ukraine's Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov issued a statement instructing the government and its agencies not to recognise the Crimean autonomous republic's new prime minister Sergiy Aksyonov, claiming that he had been appointed in violation of Ukrainian law.

Aksyonov claimed power after the region's parliament was seized by pro-Kremlin gunmen.

Earlier Defence Minister Igor Tenyukh told the new cabinet's first session that Russia's armed forces have sent 30 armoured personnel carriers and 6,000 additional troops into Crimea to help local pro-Kremlin militia gain broader independence from the new pro-EU leaders in Kiev.

In Moscow the speaker of the upper house, Valentina Matviyenko, said that Russia may send a "imited contingent" to Crimea to assure the security of Russia's Black Sea Fleet and its citizens.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said that France was "deeply concerned" over the troop movement reports.

"We call on the parties to abstain from actions that could raise tensions and harm Ukraine's territorial integrity," he said in a statement.

Dozens of pro-Russian demonstrators were reported to have been injured in the town of Kharkiv.

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