Putin has until Monday to back off on Crimea, or else

Pro-Russian demonstrators take part in a rally in Donetsk March 13, 2014. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Pro-Russian demonstrators take part in a rally in Donetsk March 13, 2014. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter

, Last Updated: 4:53 PM ET

OTTAWA - Western leaders ratcheted up the rhetoric Thursday with more threats to isolate Russia if a planned weekend referendum on the future of Crimea is not abandoned and Russian troops don't retreat from the Black Sea peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has until Monday to soften his stance and signal he's willing to negotiate or face serious repercussions that include economic sanctions, additional asset freezes and travel restrictions, they said.

But amid the anxiety and fears, the West appears helpless to stop the Sunday vote which is likely to see the annexation of Crimea to Russia and trigger an economic backlash that could have devastating consequences.

And Putin has said he would respond in kind if western countries carry though with punitive economic measures.


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