Crimea to Hold Referendum on Becoming Part of Russia

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Voters in the flashpoint Crimea region will be given the opportunity to choose between remaining a part of Ukraine, or to become a part of Russia, the region's Vice Premier said Thursday.

Crimea to Hold Referendum on Becoming Part of Russia

Rustam Teemirgaliev told the Russian RIA news agency that the referendum would be held March 16.

The agency reported that the referendum would consist of two questions. The first would ask whether voters wished to join Russia" (as a subject of the Russian Federation)." The second question would ask whether voters wished to remain a part of Ukraine as laid out in the country's post-Soviet 1992 constitution.

"This is our response to the disorder and lawlessness in Kiev," Sergei Shuvainikov, a member of the local Crimean legislature, told AP Thursday. "We will decide our future ourselves."

The parliament in Crimea, which enjoys a degree of autonomy under the current Ukrainian law, voted 78-0 with eight abstentions in favor of holding the referendum. 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 interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told  AP that Crimea would remain part of Ukraine.

RIA also reported Thursday that Crimea's parliament had voted unanimously to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian parliament to consider its request that the region become part of Russia. It was not immediately clear whether the vote would supersede the promised referendum.

Crimea has been a part of Ukraine since 1954, when Soviet ruler Nikita Khrushchev, himself of Ukrainian origin, formally transferred ownership of the region to Ukraine from Russia. In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Crimea briefly became an autonomous region before its parliament agreed to remain a part of Ukraine.

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