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PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, March 08 /ITAR-TASS/. The prime minister of the Autonomous Ukrainian Republic of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, said Saturday he would vote for the autonomy’s accession to Russia at an upcoming referendum.
The Supreme Council of Crimea, a Ukrainian region where Russians constitute a majority, on March 6 made a principled decision for the republic to secede from Ukraine and become part of the Russian Federation. The issue was put to a referendum that would take place on March 16.
The following questions will have to be answered:
1) Do you support reunification of Crimea with Russia as a constituent member of the Russian Federation?
2) Do you support the reinstatement of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Crimea and Crimea’s status as part of Ukraine?
The second option (to remain part of Ukraine) apparently suggests a broader autonomy for Crimea than it has now.
Answering a question from the anchor of a news program on the Rossiya 1 Russian state TV channel, Aksyonov explained that the second option “suggests an almost absolute autonomy [of Crimea] plus the possibility of a legislative initiative.”
“I will vote for the first option - joining the Russian Federation,” Aksyonov said.
He said it was yet hard for him to forecast how the republic would be building its relations with Kiev after the referendum "until wise people come to power in Kiev who will not consider the residents of [Ukraine’s] southeast as cattle and second best people."
Ukraine has been in political turmoil since its legitimate president Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in a violent uprising in February. The country’s parliament appointed an interim head of state, set early presidential elections for May 25 and approved a new government, which Crimea and Russia do not recognize.
The current Ukrainian authorities and the West have condemned the upcoming Crimean referendum as illegitimate, but Russia’s position is that in entire Ukraine, only Crimea’s authorities are legitimate following the coup that ousted Yanukovich.
Russians account for over 50 percent of Crimea's population. In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when First Secretary of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party’s Central Committee, Nikita Khrushchev, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction.
Russia leases from Ukraine a naval base in Crimea’s port city of Sevastopol and has its Black Sea Fleet deployed there.