Ahead of Sunday's referendum in Crimea regarding its future as part of Ukraine, Sweden's foreign minister has said the current borders of Europe must remain unaltered.
The new Ukrainian government on Tuesday called for Western help to stop the annex of Crimea, which votes Sunday on whether to become a part of the Russian Federation. Russian forces entered the Crimea region late February, and officials from Ukraine, the European Union and the U.S. have said the upcoming vote is illegal.
Swedish foreign minister — and former prime minister — Carl Bildt has been a vocal critic of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and Russia's actions in the Crimea, describing the Kremlin's occupation of the peninsula as a clear breach of international law. Bildt was a mediator during the Balkans conflict of the mid-1990s.
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"One of the very fundamental principles that everyone decided upon at the end of the Cold War, at the end of the Soviet Union, at the end of Yugoslavia, was: don't change the borders," he told CNBC.
Bildt said that people had to live within the existing borders of Europe and that allowing Crimea to become a part of Russia would send a dangerous precedent.
"What we are talking about is one state by force trying to dismember - and in fact annex - a part of another state," he said. "We haven't seen that in Europe in quite a number of decades."
"And if it can happen here now, it can happen somewhere else tomorrow," Bildt added.
His words came as the leaders of G-7 group of industrialized economies said Russia's efforts to change the status of Crimea were "contrary to Ukrainian law and in violation of international law."
"In addition to its impact on the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states. Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively," the G-7 leaders said in a statement Wednesday.
Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is on his way to the White House for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, after telling parliament that he wanted the U.S. and U.K.- as guarantors of a 1994 treaty which saw Ukraine give up its Soviet nuclear weapons - to intervene both diplomatically and militarily.
But the West appears to have no appetite for turning the dispute into a military conflict. Instead, U.S. lawmakers are preparing sanctions against Russia and Reuters reported Wednesday that EU leaders had agreed the wording of sanctions on Russia, including travel restrictions and asset freezes.
If approved by ministers on Monday, they would be the first sanctions imposed by the EU against Russia since the end of the Cold War, Reuters said.
Bildt added that the survival and stability of Ukraine was important to all of Europe and stressed that it was vital to support the new government in Kiev.
"They have taken over a corrupt, mismanaged economy with huge issues and huge problems," Bildt told CNBC. "But they are really determined to try to give Ukraine a new start and I think it's imperative that we give them all the help that we can."
On Tuesday, ousted leader Yanukovich blamed those who forced him from power for the developments on the Black Sea peninsula – while stressing that he was still the leader of Ukraine.
Asked whether he agreed with Yanukovich's claim, Bildt said the former leader had, "he has abandoned position and as a matter of fact abandoned his country. So I think he has effectively lost the possibility of coming back."
Bildt's view on the future of Crimea contrasts starkly with that of Russia, and Bildt admitted that he had not had any contact with the Russians over recent days.
"So far the Russians are saying that there was a coup in Kiev, which is clearly not the case," he said."They are refusing to deal with authorities in Kiev, which is contrary to all of the principles, and they continue to push what they do in Crimea - they even deny, somewhat laughably, that there aren't even Russian forces in Crimea."
—By CNBC's Kiran Moodley. Follow him on Twitter @kirancmoodley