UK

Ukraine: Crimea To Hold Referendum On Whether Region Should Be Part Of Russia

06/03/2014 11:21 GMT | Updated 17/03/2014 17:59 GMT

Politicians in the occupied Crimean region of southern Ukraine have announced a referendum March 16 on whether Crimea should become part of Russia.

In a statement on its website, parliament said it has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin "to start the procedure" of recognising Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.

Russian troops are currently occupying the region, which is majority ethnic Russian, but Ukraine's prime minister has repeatedly insisted it was unthinkable for Crimea not to be part of Ukraine.

"This is our response to the disorder and lawlessness in Kiev," Sergei Shuvainikov, a member of the local Crimean legislature, said Thursday. "We will decide our future ourselves."

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Pro-russian supporters chant slogans during a rally at a central square in Simferopol, Crimea

The parliament in Crimea, which enjoys a degree of autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78 with eight abstentions in favour of holding the referendum, AP reported.

One option on the ballot paper will be to remain part of Ukraine, but with increased devolution of power to Crimea's parliament.