Crimea asks to join Russia, plans referendum
Pro-Moscow authorities in Crimea on Thursday asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to examine a request for their region to join the Russian Federation, which will be put to a referendum on March 16.
"The parliament of Crimea has adopted a motion for Crimea to join Russia. It has asked the Russian president and parliament to consider this request," Grigoriy Ioffe, a senior lawmaker, told AFP.
A closed-door session of parliament also set a referendum for March 16 that will ask residents whether they want their region to "become part of Russia as a subject of the federation", Ioffe said.
Crimea is an autonomous republic of Ukraine that has fallen under the control of Russian forces in recent days following the ouster in Kiev of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych, who has fled to Russia.
Ioffe said the second question on the referendum would be whether Crimea should return to the wide autonomy it enjoyed under a previous 1992 constitution, which gave it de facto independence.
Seventy-eight out of 86 lawmakers in the local parliament voted in favour of the motions.
Crimea is home to Russia's Black Sea fleet and had been part of Russia since the late 18th century, before Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine as a "gift" in 1954.
The move was largely meaningless during Soviet times, as both Ukraine and Russia were republics in the Soviet Union.
© 2014 AFP