Moscow: Russia’s lower and upper houses of parliament on Friday pledged to vote into law the result of a “historic” March 16 referendum in the Ukrainian region of Crimea on becoming part of Russia.
The speakers of both the State Duma and Federation Council strongly implied that ratification would receive fast-track rubber-stamp approval if Crimeans — as is widely expected — vote to become part of Russia.
The comments came as a delegation of Crimean lawmakers, led by parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov, visited Moscow one day after the local parliament agreed to ask President Vladimir Putin for the region to become part of Russia and resolved to put the issue to a public vote.
“We will respect the historic choice of the people of Crimea,” said State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin at a meeting with the Crimean delegation and top Russian lawmakers.
“We support the free and democratic choice of the population of Crimea,” he added in comments broadcast on state television.
Naryshkin said the move was linked to the need to ensure the “rights and freedom of citizens and simply protect human life” in Crimea, amid Ukraine’s turmoil after the fall of president Viktor Yanukovych.
But he acknowledged that it was also prompted by reasons of “historical, spiritual and world-point-of-view character”.
The head of the State Duma’s committee for relations with ex-Soviet states, Leonid Slutsky, said parliament would move fast after the plebiscite to recognise the result.
“I think that literally in the next days after the referendum the State Duma will formalise the decision in the proper way,” he said.
The head of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovsky — dressed in a dazzlingly bright red blazer and bow tie in an apparent sign of celebration — said the Crimean parliament leaders had nothing to fear.
“I want to assure you that everything will be how the Crimean people want. Your names are going to be written into the history of Crimea,” added the maverick politician.
– ‘Look at Scotland’ –
Konstantinov and Crimean lawmakers won similar assurances support from the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house, which would give final legislative approval to any move to join Russia.
Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko said that the decision by the Crimean parliament was “historic” and a move it had every legal right to take.
To justify the move, she pointed to Scotland, which is due in September to hold a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.
“The decision (by the Crimean parliament) is fully in line with international practice. It is enough to look at Scotland and you can find other examples.”
“No-one says the Scotland referendum is illegal.”
She said: “If the people of Crimea take a decision to join Russia then the Federation Council will undoubtedly support that decision.”
Crimea’s pro-Russia leaders have predicted that Crimeans will vote overwhelmingly in favour of joining Russia.
A senior lawmaker, Sergei Mironov of the Just Russia Party, has already submitted draft legislation to the Duma to make it easier for Russia to incorporate part of a foreign country.
He said that this could be passed by parliament by March 14, which in his eyes would give parliament full legal basis to rubber stamp Crimea’s adhesion after the referendum.
“The bill was written for Crimea, I say that openly,” he said.