Washington: The US will not recognise the annexation of Crimea by Russia if residents of the region vote to leave Ukraine in a referendum next week, a White House official said on Sunday.
"If there is an annexation of Crimea, if there`s a referendum that moves Crimea from Ukraine to Russia, we won`t recognise it, nor will most of the world," White House Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken told CNN in an interview.
Crimea`s regional pro-Moscow government will hold a referendum on joining Russia on March 16, which could lead to a formal annexation of the territory.
Blinkan said the US and its allies would increase pressure on Russia if it made the wrong choice.
"The president made it very clear in announcing our sanctions, as did the Europeans the other day, that this was a first step, and we`ve put in place a very flexible and very tough mechanism to increase the pressure, to increase the sanctions, depending on events, depending on what happens going forward.
"And so if Russia makes the wrong choice going forward, we have the ability to exert significant pressure on Russia, as do our partners," he said.
Blinken said Russia Russia is paying a heavy price for its military action in Ukraine.
"In coordination with our allies, we`ve imposed significant sanctions on Russia, and that`s already exerting a cost. We`ve seen Russian markets go down substantially, the ruble go down, and investors sitting on the fence," he said.
"So Russia`s paying a price for this. The question now is whether they will take the off ramp that the president and our partners around Europe have proposed."
US President Barack Obama, he said, has mobilised the international community in support of Ukraine to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine and to reassure its allies and partners, and that is having a clear effect.
Blinken said the US wants to resolve this diplomatically.
"I think the door is clearly open to resolving this diplomatically. Secretary (of State, John) Kerry is engaged with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister (Sergei) Lavrov. European leaders are also engaged with (the Russian President, Vladimir) Putin, as is the (US) President," he said.
"He (Putin) has a choice to make. He can choose to continue to pursue this path, and that`s going to result in increasing isolation for Russia, increasing economic cost, and an undermining of Russia`s power and influence," the White House official said.