Moscow: Crimea joining Russia would amount to an "unacceptable annexation," French President Francois Hollande told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a telephone conversation Wednesday.
Hollande also said a referendum due on Sunday in the flashpoint Ukrainian peninsula on whether residents want to join Russia has "no legal basis" and stressed there was still time to "prevent a dangerous and useless escalation," his office said in a statement.
Russian troops took control of Crimea shortly after Ukraine`s pro-Kremlin leader Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last month, in what is Moscow`s first military involvement in a neighbouring country since its brief 2008 war with Georgia.
Hollande called for a withdrawal of Russian troops from the region and asked Moscow to "respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Ukraine, the statement said.
He said a presidential election due on May 25 in Ukraine to be held under international supervision and in the "greatest transparency will ensure the success of the political transition underway in Ukraine".