KIEV, Ukraine, March 6 (UPI) -- The Crimean parliament in Ukraine's mostly pro-Russian Crimea region passed a resolution Thursday "To join the Russian Federation as a constituent of the Russian Federation."
Deputy parliamentary speaker Sergei Tsekov said of parliament's vote, "This means we have reunited with our motherland which we have been a part of for so long."
According to a statement posted to its website, parliament has formally requested Russian President Vladimir Putin "to start the procedure."
Parliament's resolution also calls for a March 16 referendum -- a date that was then moved to March 30 -- that asks the Crimean population:
1. Do you support Crimea's reunification with Russia?
2. Do you support the restoration of the Constitution of the Crimean Republic dated 1992 and Crimea's status as a part of Ukraine?
The resolution states that whichever question receives the most votes will be considered the expressed will of the Crimean population. Tsekov predicted that most Crimeans would "support our decisions at the referendum."
Ukraine's central government, however, does not regard the Crimean parliament's actions to be constitutional.
Interim Economy Minister Pavlo Sheremeta invoked Article 73 of Ukraine's constitution, which stipulates: "alterations to the territory of Ukraine shall be resolved exclusively by an all-Ukrainian referendum."
Ukrainian Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko called the resolution's planned referendum "illegal."
"The issue of a referendum is illegal, as the issues of changing the status of Crimea is not subject to review by local referendums -- it is a matter for a nationwide referendum."
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius weighed in on the parliament's decision, saying, "It is a violation of international law and the Ukrainian Constitution. And means going deeper into chaos and disorder."
[Interfax Ukraine News Agency]