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Crimea Parliament Votes To Join Russia, Referendum March 16

posted 6 Mar 2014, 05:45 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 6 Mar 2014, 05:45 ]

Crimea's parliament votes to become part of Russia, and its Moscow-backed government sets a referendum within 10 days on the decision, in a dramatic escalation of the crisis over the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula.

SIMFEROPOL, CRIMEAUKRAINE (MARCH 6, 2014) (ATR) -  The Crimean parliament voted unanimously "to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation", the Crimean vice premier said on Thursday (March 6).

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Rustam Temigraliev said a referendum on the status of the peninsula would take place on March 16.

The sudden acceleration of moves to bring Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority and has effectively been seized by Russian forces, formally underMoscow's rule came as European Union leaders gathered for an emergency summit to seek ways to pressure Russia to back down and accept mediation.

Thursday's announcement, which diplomats said could not have been made without Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval, raised the stakes in the most serious east-west confrontation since the end of the Cold War.

Far from seeking a diplomatic way out, Putin appears to have chosen to create facts on the ground before the West can agree on more than token action against him.

The new Ukrainian government has declared the referendum illegal and opened a criminal investigation against Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Askyonov, who was appointed by the region's parliament last week. The Ukrainian government does not recognise his authority or that of the parliament.

Temigraliev said voters would be asked two questions in the upcoming vote.

"Are you in favour of uniting Crimea with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation? And the alternative question: Are you in favour of preserving the status of Crimea as part of Ukraine?" Temirgaliev said.

The crisis began in November when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, under strong Russian pressure, turned his back on a far reaching trade deal with the EU and accepted a $15 billion bailout from Moscow. That prompted three months of street protests leading to the overthrow of Yanukovich on February 22.

Moscow denounced the events as an illegitimate coup and refused to recognise the new Ukrainian authorities.

Meanwhile, a bill on simplifying the procedure for "parts of foreign states" to join the Russian Federation could be adopted next week, a politician who crafted the bill was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Itar-Tass news agency quoted Sergei Mironov as saying: "Speaking plainly, this bill was introduced by me for the sake of Crimea".