The Crimean parliament voted unanimously to join the Russian Federation and will hold a referendum on the issue March 16 in another escalation of the crisis in Ukraine.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has rejected the move, calling the referendum ‘illegitimate’ and vowing the Crimea would remain a part of Ukraine. The prime minister also said Ukraine would defend itself from further military intervention.
The referendum will ask the people of Crimea two questions:
- Should Crimea join Russia?
- Should Crimea adopt a constitution that would give the region greater autonomy?
CBC is reporting Crimea’s vice-premier said if the referendum is successful all property would be nationalized and the region would adopt the Russian rubble as the official currency. Ukrainian military forces would be treated as an occupying force and asked to leave.
This is the latest move by Crimeans to sever ties with Ukraine. Crimea has a majority ethnic Russian population and is being effectively occupied by a pro-Russian military force numbering more than 11,000.
Access to the peninsula is controlled by this force, which has also blockaded all Ukrainian military bases in the region.
The United States and the European Union have joined the Ukrainian prime minister in condemning the proposed referendum.
US President Barrack Obama announced sanctions against those involved in causing the crisis including the freezing of assets and a travel ban. Obama called the referendum ‘unconstitutional’ and contrary to international law.
The European Union followed suit, suspending talks with Russia on an economic pact and a visa agreement.
The EU announced the measures at an emergency meeting, calling on Russia to quickly come to an agreement to resolve the issue or greater economic sanctions will be imposed.