A referendum on the status of Crimea will be held March 16, the region’s deputy prime minister announced. Crimeans will be asked to decide if the autonomous republic stays part of Ukraine or joins Russia.
"The referendum will take place March 16," said the autonomous region’s First Deputy-Premier Rustam Temirgaliev, according to ITAR-TASS.
The new date is two weeks earlier than the one announced last week.
There will be two questions on the ballots.
“The first one: Are you in favor of Crimea becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation. The second one: Are you in favor of restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution,”Temirgaliev said.
According to the 1992 constitution, the autonomous republic is part of Ukraine but has relations with Kiev, defined on the basis of mutual agreements.
Sevastopol residents will take part in the referendum, despite the city enjoying a special status and not officially being a part of Crimea, according to Sergey Shuvainikov, a Crimean MP.
“We will give Sevastopol an opportunity to have its say,” he said, as cited by RIA Novosti.
Meanwhile the Crimean MPs have unanimously voted for the region to become a part of Russia.
"To become part of the Russian Federation as its constituent territory,” says the text of the Crimean parliament’s statement, obtained by RIA Novosti.
When the decision was announced to the people outside the parliament building, they welcomed the news with cheers and screams of “Russia!”
There are currently several thousand people in front of the parliament building, according to ITAR-TASS.
The parliament has also made a decision to ask the Russian leadership to “launch the procedure of Crimea becoming part of Russia.”
The speaker of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, explained that the parliament’s decision on the region joining Russia still has to be approved at a referendum.
Russia’s State Duma (parliament) could possibly debate the bill on Crimea joining Russia next week, said leader of the ‘Fair Russia’ party, Sergey Mironov.
“I think that taking into consideration the date of the referendum – March 16 – we have time to consider the bill as part of normal business. The Bill is going to be debated next week,” Mironov said as cited by RIA Novosti.
More than half the Crimean population are Russian and use only this language for their communication.
Crimean authorities denounced the self-proclaimed government in Kiev and declared that all Ukrainian law enforcement and military deployed in the peninsula must take orders from them. The majority of troops in Crimea switched sides in favor of the local authorities.
Crimea: Unmasking Revolution