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Can’t back split: Singh

New Delhi. March 18: India today told Russia that it respects Moscow’s interests in Ukraine but cannot support secession of Crimea based on a referendum that Kiev does not recognise, its stance shaped by its own position on Kashmir.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this evening to “discuss” the situation in Crimea, Indian and Russian foreign ministries said.

But senior Indian and Russian officials confirmed to The Telegraph that Singh indicated to Putin that Crimea’s secession, and any subsequent merger with Russia would be hard for India to support. “That was the gist,” an official said. “That India respects Russia’s interests in its neighbourhood, especially in Crimea, but cannot move away from its stated position on territorial unity and integrity of sovereign states.”

Crimea, in a referendum on Sunday that Ukraine and the West have called illegal, voted to join Russia. Putin has since signed a pact accepting Crimea’s merger with Russia. But the US has imposed sanctions against key officials of Putin’s administration, and the EU and the UN have condemned what they have dubbed as Russian aggression against a sovereign state — Ukraine.

Putin, a Russian official said, would be calling other allies too over the coming two days, including the Chinese and central Asian nations close to Moscow. “President Putin wants to understand the views of close allies in this matter,” the official said. The Telegraph was the first to report on March 4 that India would not oppose Russia’s military intervention in Crimea that began at the start of this month, but would not be comfortable supporting any attempt to sever Crimea from Ukraine.

The Ukrainian parliament in Kiev has called the secession by Crimea a violation of Ukrainian law. India, likewise, has repeatedly argued internationally — including at the UN — that Kashmir is an intrinsic part of India that cannot be separated. It has regularly rebuffed calls by separatist groups in Kashmir for a referendum, pointing instead to democratic elections that over the past decade have widely been seen as free and fair.

 
 
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