Speaker of Crimea parlimant: Referendum in Line with Public Will

Crimea’s parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov (C) meets with Russian officials at the Russian parliament in Moscow on March 7, 2014 (AFP Photo/Yuri Kadobnov)

The speaker of Crimea’s parliament said on Friday that the upcoming referendum over the autonomous republic’s future status is in line with the will of Crimean people.

Speaker Vladimir Konstantinov made the remarks at a meeting in Moscow with the chairman of the Federation Council of Russia.

Konstantinov said Crimea’s parliament had voted to become part of Russia on Thursday and that a survey showed 70 percent of Crimeans were in favor of the bill.

The Crimean parliament on Thursday announced it wanted to join Russia and would hold a referendum on the issue on March 16. Konstantinov said the upcoming referendum is in line with the public’s will.

“We have been communicating with the people, and we have agreed (to hold a referendum). We are obeying the public’s will. What we have done is legal and transparent,” said the parliamentary speaker.

In addition to the upcoming referendum, the two countries also discussed food and medicine supply plans, humanitarian and financial assistance, and a capital city relocation for Crimea (from the current Simferopol to Sevastopol).

Sevastopol, a port city located at the Crimean peninsula’s southern tip, shelters the Russian Black Sea fleet.

Valentina Matvienko, chairman of the Federation Council of Russia, said Russia’s Upper House would respect any choice made by the Crimean people in the upcoming referendum.

“What is important is that Crimea will be a Russian federal subject that is absolutely equal and fully self-governing if the bill is passed. Compared with being part of Ukraine, a Russian federal subject is highly self-governing, and the power distribution between the central government and the regional government is clearly defined,” said Matvienko.

So far, Russia is the only country to have supported the referendum. United States President Barack Obama said Thursday that the referendum violates international law. Moscow later accused the United States of applying a double standard to Russia’s assertions about the developments in Ukraine.

The mostly Russian-speaking Crimea, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, has become the epicenter of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine since President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by the parliament on February 22.

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