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SIMFEROPOL, March 10, /ITAR-TASS/. The Crimean authorities have invited the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send its observers to the March 16 referendum, in which the autonomy’s residents will be asked to decide whether they want to join Russia or stay within Ukraine.
The invitation was handed over to Switzerland as the current OSCE Chairman in Office on Monday, March 10, officials at the Crimean parliament told ITAR-TASS.
They said they expected observers from both individual OSCE member states and from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to come to Crimea.
Some 1,500 Crimean troops will guard polling stations during the referendum, Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said after attending the oath-taking ceremony in a special operations battalion.
“We will have about 1,500 armed troops by the time the referendum is held. They will be placed on duty at all polling stations,” Aksyonov said.”The referendum will be guarded by armed people, primarily the autonomy’s self-defence units and Armed Forces,” he added.
Aksyonov said OSCE observers would be let into Crimea on March 16. “I am confident that the parliament of Crimea will make it possible for them to be present at polling stations. This process is underway now and the referendum itself will be as transparent as possible,” he said.
The prime minister also commented on incidents with OSCE military observers who had not been allowed by the Crimean self-defence units to enter the peninsula over the past weekend.
“Some Western journalists come here and see only negative things, while refusing to see what is happening in Western Ukraine. Nevertheless they try to impose their point of view upon the people of Crimean and accuse them of all deadly sins,” Aksyonov said. “We do not want anyone to provide untruthful information about what is happening in the autonomy. This is why we kindly asked the OSCE guests to leave Crimea,” he said.
The Crimean parliament on Thursday, March 6, ruled to hold a referendum on accession to Russia on March 16. Earlier it was scheduled for March 30. Three questions will be asked during the referendum:
1. Do you support Crimea’s reunification with Russia as its constituent member?
2. Do you support the restoration of the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea of 1992 and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?
The Russian Federation Council said it would support Crimea’s decision to join Russia if its people vote so in the referendum.
Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov said Russia had insisted on the presence of observers from international organisations at the referendum.
“Russia, our colleagues in the State Duma and the Federation Council believe that they [observers] should be present. They are working on this now, and our electoral commission is working on this, and there will be observers,” the speaker said.