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SIMFEROPOL, March 17. /ITAR-TASS/. Crimea’s referendum on whether to become part of Russia was held in line with international electoral standards, a group of independent international observers said in a joint statement obtained by Itar-Tass on Monday.
Crimea held a plebiscite on whether to secede from Ukraine and accede to Russia on Sunday. About 97% of voters chose the option of accession to the Russian Federation. Crimea’s parliament, the Supreme Council, on Monday declared Crimea an independent sovereign state.
The observers “believe that the voting process and vote count at the referendum in the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol [city with a special status] were held in line with international electoral standards and approved regulations,” the statement from observers says.
The observers decided that the principles of universal, equal and direct right to participate in a referendum with secret ballot were observed during the plebiscite. The statement also emphasizes that the principles of openness, transparency, justice and tolerance were observed as well.
The observers said the referendum’s results are authentic and reflect the will of its participants.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said early on Monday that Crimea’s decision to hold the referendum was in line with international law and the UN Charter, and was also in line with the precedent set by Kosovo, the Kremlin reported.
The referendum was organized in such a way as to guarantee Crimea’s mostly Russian population the possibility to freely express their will and exercise their right to self-determination, Putin told his US counterpart Barack Obama.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych left Ukraine in February after a coup in his country. He told reporters in southern Russia last Tuesday that he remained the legitimate Ukrainian leader despite “an anti-constitutional seizure of power by armed radicals.” Russia considers Yanukovych the legitimate Ukrainian president.
The self-proclaimed new Ukrainian authorities and the West have cried foul over the Crimean referendum claiming the vote was illegal.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction. In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine.