Crimea sets referendum on whether to join Russia

Pro-Russia demonstrators hold Russian and Crimean flags and posters as they rally in front of the local parliament building in Crimea's capital Simferopol, Ukraine, Thursday, March 6, 2014. About 50 people rallied outside the local parliament Thursday morning waving Russian and Crimean flags. Lawmakers in Crimea called a March 16 referendum on whether to break away from Ukraine and join Russia instead, voting unanimously Thursday to declare their preference for doing so. Posters read "Peace in Ukraine, Murder in Kiev," "Aksyonov is People's Premier." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Pro-Russia demonstrators hold Russian and Crimean flags and posters as they rally in front of the local parliament building in Crimea's capital Simferopol, Ukraine, Thursday, March 6, 2014. About 50 people rallied outside the local parliament Thursday morning waving Russian and Crimean flags. Lawmakers in Crimea called a March 16 referendum on whether to break away from Ukraine and join Russia instead, voting unanimously Thursday to declare their preference for doing so. Posters read "Peace in Ukraine, Murder in Kiev," "Aksyonov is People's Premier." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Lawmakers in the embattled Crimean region of Ukraine have decided to hold a referendum March 16 on whether Crimea should become part of Russia.

“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.”

The parliament in Crimea, which enjoys a degree of autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78 with eight abstentions in favor of holding the referendum. Local voters will also be given the choice of deciding to remain part of Ukraine, but with enhanced local powers.

There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian central government to the vote. On Wednesday, Ukraine’s prime minister told The Associated Press that Crimea would remain part of Ukraine.

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