MOSCOW, March 7 (RIA Novosti) – Crimea, a majority ethnic Russian region within Ukraine, decided on Friday to ignore a presidential order on a technicality and proceed with an upcoming vote to secede and join Russia.
The regional government said the order, issued earlier in the day by Ukraine’s interim president, was not submitted to the country’s Constitutional Court in the proscribed manner and is therefore invalid.
Crimea’s parliament, members of which have declared they do not recognize the interim government in Kiev, decided on Thursday to secede from Ukraine and request annexation by Russia.
The region scheduled a popular vote on the matter for March 16, which was opposed by the presidential order.
The speaker of Crimea’s parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, said the vast majority of its members were in favor of holding the vote.
Authorities in Crimea, which hosts a majority Russian naval base, have repeatedly contested the legitimacy of the national government, formed by the erstwhile opposition after the country’s pro-Russian president was ousted late last month.
Meanwhile, thousands of troops apparently lacking official insignia but carrying weapons and wearing uniforms used by Russian soldiers have taken over Ukrainian military bases across Crimea in the past week.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted, though, that the masked soldiers are “local militia.”