OTTAWA - The G-7 has issued a formal statement urging Russia to back away from its efforts to split the Crimea away from Ukraine.
The group which includes some of the world's top economies says a Russian-backed referendum on the status of the Black Sea peninsula would have no legal effect.
The statement also says the referendum process is deeply flawed, given its rushed nature and the intimidating presence of Russians troops in the Crimea.
The G-7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — were joined in the statement by the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission.
They say a Russian annexation of the Crimea would violate a number of international agreements.
The statement urges Russia to withdraw its troops and offers to mediate talks between Moscow and the Ukrainian government.