LONDON, March 11 (UPI) -- Western nations called on Russian authorities Tuesday to accept the U.S. proposal for discussions on Ukraine or else risk facing sanctions, which could be imposed in a matter of a few days.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had asked Russian authorities to halt their military activities in Crimea and open a dialogue with the newly-instated Ukrainian government before he will visit Moscow for talks. The offer was rejected by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who called the proposal "unsatisfactory."
Representatives from Western nations are meeting in London to flesh out a sanctions plan, and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said that once given the go-ahead these sanctions could be imposed in a matter of days. Fabius said the sanctions could involve revocation of travel visas and the freezing of certain individuals' assets.
Fabius told radio station France Inter that if Russia did not respond in the affirmative, “there are a series of sanctions that can be taken as early as this week.”
Meanwhile, Crimea will hold a referendum Sunday to determine whether they want to stay with Ukraine or become a part of Russia. The Russian parliament will discuss legislation on March 21 on Crimea joining the country.
Dismissing the March 16 vote, Fabius tweeted that the only legitimate vote was on March 25 when Ukraine will conduct presidential elections.
Ousted president Viktor Yanukovych said during a press conference, that he was still Ukraine's legitimate leader. He supported the case being made by Russia, saying that a junta in Kiev provoked Crimea to secede by spreading lawlessness and by not protecting citizens.
“The cities are being patrolled by masked gunmen,” said Yanukovych in his first public appearance since Feb. 28. “This new government is firing officers from the army, those officers who don’t want lawlessness committed against civilians. They want civil war to break out.”