Parliamentarians in Crimea called a March 16 referendum on whether to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, on Thursday to declare their preference for doing so. “This is our response to the disorder and lawlessness in Kiev,” Sergei Shuvainikov, a member of the local Crimean legislature, said. “We will decide our future ourselves.”
The 100-seat parliament in Crimea, which enjoys a degree of autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78-0, with eight abstentions, in favour of holding the referendum on the issue joining the Russian federation. Local voters will also be given the choice of deciding to remain part of Ukraine, but with enhanced local powers.
There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian central government to the vote. On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Prime Minister told The Associated Press that Crimea would remain part of Ukraine.
In Moscow, a prominent member of Russia’s parliament, Sergei Mironov, said he has introduced a bill to simplify the procedure for Crimea to join Russia and it could be passed as soon as next week, the state news agency ITAR-Tass reported.
A referendum had previously been scheduled in Crimea on March 30, but the question to be put to voters was on whether their region should enjoy “state autonomy” within Ukraine.
Earlier, Crimea’s new leader said pro-Russian forces numbering more than 11,000 now control all access to the peninsula in the Black Sea and have blockaded all military bases that have not yet surrendered.
The West has joined the new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev in demanding that Russia pull its forces back from Crimea, but little progress was reported after a flurry of diplomatic activity in Paris on Wednesday involving U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
European Union leaders will meet for an emergency session in Brussels on Thursday to decide what sort of sanctions they can impose on Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Moscow has threatened to retaliate if any punitive measures are put in place.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in Brussels for the summit, said Russia was continuing to stir up trouble. “We ask Russia to respond whether they are ready to preserves peace and stability in Europe or (whether) they are ready to instigate another provocation and another tension in our bilateral and multilateral relations,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said.
Under the Soviet Union, Crimea belonged to the Russian Federation until it was transferred to Ukraine in 1954 by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
The Associated Press (Ukraine & Russia), March 6, 2014