Crimea 'means more to Russia than Falklands to UK'

Sergei Lavrov said: "We expressed our opinion that we will respect the will of the Crimean people on March 16."

Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov has said the Ukrainian region of Crimea means more to Russians than the Falklands mean to British people.

He said the planned referendum in Crimea is in line with international law - a claim which US and EU leaders dispute - and argued that the region should be treated similarly to Kosovo, which was unilaterally declared independent from Serbia in 2008.

Mr Lavrov also flatly rejected reports which emerged today claiming that the Kremlin is planning to invade eastern Ukraine. He said Moscow has "no plans" to undertake such an operation.

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International observers arrive in Crimea ahead of vote

International observers invited by Russia and Crimean authorities have arrived in Simferopol ahead of Sunday's referendum.