The parliament of Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea has voted to hold a referendum to determine the region’s future amid ongoing crisis in the country.
On Thursday, the regional parliament voted 61 to 64 in favor of holding the referendum on May 25, the date already set for snap presidential elections across Ukraine.
The parliament said the referendum is about “improving the status of autonomy and expanding its powers.”
“According to the underlying principles of democracy, the presidium of the Crimean parliament considers that the only possible way out of the situation on the ground is applying the principles of direct rule of the people. We are confident that only by holding an All-Crimean referendum on the issue of improving the status of the autonomy and expanding its powers Crimeans will be able to determine the future of the autonomy on their own and without any external pressure,” Oksana Korniychuk, the press secretary of the head of the parliament, said in a statement.
As a result of “the unconstitutional seizure of power in Ukraine by radical nationalists supported by armed gangs,” Crimea’s peace and order is “under threat,” the statement added.
Around 400 demonstrators had gathered near the parliament building, demanding that a referendum on the status of Crimea be held.
Legislators also voted 55 to 64 to dismiss the region’s current government, which has backed the new interim authorities in Kiev.
The parliamentarians relieved Anatoliy Mohyliov from his duties as chairman of the Crimean Council of Ministers and elected leader of Crimea’s Russian Unity party, Sergey Aksyonov, the new chairman.
The developments came after an unknown group of people seized the buildings in Simferopol, the Autonomous Republic’s administrative center, and hoisted Russian flags above the government headquarters.
Anti-government protests erupted in Ukraine in November last year when President Viktor Yanukovych refrained from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
On February 23, the Ukrainian parliament ousted Yanukovych and named Oleksandr Turchynov, the legislature’s newly-elected speaker, as interim president.
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