KIEV Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned on Monday that a military conflict in his east European country would threaten the stability of the whole region.
He also said Ukraine would not permit ethnic Russians who have declared themselves the leaders of Crimea to annex the southern region, which is now in the hands of Russian forces.
"I was and am a supporter of a diplomatic solution to the crisis, as a conflict would destroy the foundations for stability in the whole region," Yatseniuk said at a meeting with
"The self-proclaimed and illegitimate government in Crimea is now trying to steal the national property of Ukraine ... I want to warn this government against any attempts to plunder and annex national property," he added.
Yatseniuk said Ukraine wanted to deepen political and trade ties with the European Union but this should not be an impediment to relations with Russia.
He denied government installed after the removal of President Viktor Yanukovich would nationalize private companies, telling the businessmen: "Your property is protected."
He reiterated that the government would be ready to meet any conditions set by the International Monetary Fund to secure financial assistance.
An IMF team was due to arrive in Kiev on Monday and start consultations on a new aid package on Tuesday, the IMF's local office said. It said the mission would stay in Ukraine until March 14.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)