Putin discusses Crimea proposal to join Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday discussed with his Security Council a request by the pro-Moscow authorities in Crimea to join Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told news agencies.
Putin held an unscheduled meeting with the Security Council to discuss the situation in Ukraine, including the decision on Thursday by the parliament of Crimea to ask to join Russia, RIA Novosti news agency quoted Peskov as saying.
The Kremlin spokesman gave no more detail of the discussion.
The Russian Security Council includes Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the chief of the FSB security service Nikolai Bortnikov, the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Mikhail Fradkov, defence minister Sergei Shoigu and the head of the Kremlin administration Sergei Ivanov.
The Crimean parliament on Thursday voted to ask Putin and the Russian parliament to consider a request for the region to join Russia and for the inhabitants to be asked to back this in a referendum.
Crimea is an autonomous republic of Ukraine that has fallen under the control of Russian forces in recent days following the ouster in Kiev of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych, who has fled to Russia.
Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, will finalise its position after the referendum, the head of its committee for the affairs of ex-Soviet states including Ukraine, Leonid Slutsky, told the Interfax news agency.
"The referendum of March 16 will form for us the collegial position of the residents of the autonomous republic of Crimea," and based on that position, we will decide our position," Slutsky said.
The Russian parliament will send observers to the referendum, Slutsky said.
He added that a delegation from the Crimean parliament led by its speaker Vladimir Konstantinov was expected to visit Moscow imminently: "today, tomorrow or the day after – I can't say (when)."
A senior lawmaker has already submitted draft legislation to the Duma to make it easier for Russia to incorporate part of a foreign country.
One of the bill's authors, Sergei Mironov of Kremlin-leaning A Just Russia party, said that the bill could be passed by parliament in all three required readings by March 14, quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency.
"The bill was written for Crimea, I say that openly," he said.