Lawmakers in Autonomous Republic of Crimea in southern Ukraine have endorsed a declaration of independence, which was required by law to hold a secession referendum on March 16.
The Crimean parliament voted on Tuesday for the region to declare itself an independent state if its residents agree to split off from Ukraine and join neighboring Russia in the referendum scheduled for March 16.
The declaration achieved 78 votes in favor out of 81 assembly members present in the 100-member parliament.
According to local media reports the assembly approved a "declaration on the independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol."
“We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the Charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010…make this decision,” said the text of the declaration, which was published by the Crimean media.
The self-declared pro-Western government in Kiev has dismissed the measure as illegal.
Tensions between the two sides are running high with Ukraine’s parliament warning Crimea’s assembly that it would face dissolution unless the planned referendum is called off by Wednesday.
Kiev authorities have also warned that they won’t give up Crimea under any circumstances, adding that the region will remain part of the Ukrainian territory.
If Crimean people vote for secession in the March 16 referendum, then "the republic of Crimea as an independent and sovereign state will apply to the Russian Federation to join it," the Crimean parliament’s declaration added.
The declaration was signed by the speaker of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, and the head of the Sevastopol City Council, Yury Doynikov.
“We adopted the declaration of independence to make the upcoming referendum legitimate and transparent,” Konstantinov said, adding, “Now we declare ourselves the Republic of Crimea, we don’t add ‘autonomous’."