Pro-Russian activists wave Russian flags as they demonstrate in Simferopol, the administrative center of Crimea
Several Russian parliamentarians have voiced their readiness to fast track a new bill on accepting new regions into the Russian state, and made it clear that the move was caused by fears over the fate of ethnic Russians in the Crimean Republic.
The draft law simplifies the procedure of accepting a part of a foreign state into the Russian Federation, and could be passed as early as next week, the head of the Fair Russia party Sergey Mironov told reporters on Thursday.
“To put it in plain text, the bill was initiated by me for the sake of Crimea,” the lawmaker added.
Fair Russia has prepared and submitted to the State Duma an amendment to the 2001 law on formation of new subjects in the Russian Federation.
According to deputy head of the Fair Russia caucus in the State Duma, Mikhail Yemelyanov, the existing law reads that Russian authorities can start such a procedure after reaching an agreement with the state that the newly joining territory was part of. The local authorities from the region must then formally address the Russian President with the request to join. The President consults with both chambers of parliament and in case of agreement submits a federal bill detailing the name and status of the new federal subject as well as other legal formalities.
The suggested amendments make the acceptance of new regions possible without intergovernmental agreements in two cases – if such a move is approved by a universal referendum of the region’s residents, or if the request is made by a legitimate body of state power from another country.
Upper House MP Anatoly Lyskov told the Interfax agency that once the bill is passed the decision on accepting Crimea into the Russian Federation can be made very quickly, in between three and five days. The parliamentarian added that as the initiative will come from the majority of the Crimean population, the international community will have no grounds to question its legitimacy.
On Thursday the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea voted for the region to split from Ukraine and seek to be part of Russia. Legislators also decided that such an important step needs the approval from a referendum which is scheduled on March 16.
On the same day President Vladimir Putin discussed the Crimean authorities’ decision and the forthcoming referendum with members of the top consultative body – the Security Council. The results of this conference were not made public.
All parties in the Lower House support the territorial integrity of Ukraine but at the same time understand the right of the Crimean people to raise any questions they deem appropriate, the head of the State Duma committee for CIS affairs Leonid Slutskiy told Interfax. “The March 16 referendum will form a collective position held by the population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and on the basis of this decision we will determine the State Duma position,” the lawmaker said.
The date of the first hearing on the bill on new federation subjects will be scheduled by the State Duma council on Tuesday next week, according to deputy head of majority parliamentary faction United Russia Mikhail Yemelyanov.