WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ukraine's prime minister says his country "will never surrender" its independence in the face of a threat that its strategic Crimea region could withdraw from the nation and potentially join Russia.
Speaking at a Washington think tank on Wednesday, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk derided an upcoming local vote in Crimea as directed by Russia and said its results are all but already certain.
Yatsenyuk saids the Crimea referendum to secede would be illegitimate and offered the region more autonomy and reforms if it remains part of Ukraine.
He said Ukraine's leaders want an equal relationship with Moscow but said that largely will depend on how Russian President Vladimir Putin responds.
He said a newly-restored Soviet Union would be "the biggest disaster of this century."