Ukraine's deposed president, Viktor Yanukovich, called for each of the country's regions to hold a referendum on its status "within Ukraine" on Friday, following the successful move for Russia to annex the Crimean peninsula.
"As a president who is with you with all my thoughts and soul, I urge every sensible citizen of Ukraine: Don't give in to impostors! Demand a referendum on the status of each region within Ukraine," Yanukovich stated, as quoted by Russia's Itar-Tass news agency. The deposed president fled to Russia last month.
Russia sent 6,000 troops into the region at the beginning of the month, beginning a de facto military invasion which sparked already-tense conflicts between the Crimean population - much of which is ethnically Russian and has a pro-Russian majority - and the newly empowered Opposition government in Ukraine, which has sought to distance itself from Moscow.
Now, tensions have snowballed over the referendum throughout Ukraine, which is still reeling from a months-long struggle between anti-government protesters and police to gain control of the country which spiraled into crisis in December.
Over the past week, concerns have risen that the Crimean takeover could turn into a precedent for Ukraine to splinter further - especially over protests erupting in the pro-Russian province Donetsk, which analysts say bears similarity to the protests preceding the current crisis.
Earlier this week, the Tartars - an ethnic Muslim minority in both countries - began a push to hold their own referendum, citing the need to protect their national and cultural interests.