Kyiv, March 9, 2014. Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC) called for an early referendum, scheduled for March 16, 2014. The referendum will feature two questions: whether the Crimean territory will become a part of the Russian Federation, or remain as an Autonomous Republic within Ukraine according to 1992 Crimean Constitution. Initially, the referendum was scheduled for May 25 having been rescheduled twice – for March 30 and then for March 16, 2014, respectively.
According to 2004 Constitution of Ukraine, the Parliament of an Autonomous Republic of Crimea does not possess power to hold a referendum deciding territorial sovereignty of the region. The Ministry of Justice of Ukraine reported that the referendum violates key principles of Ukrainian Constitution. Despite the absence of legal power to schedule a referendum, the self-announced Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea addressed the Federation Council of Russia with request to support the public vote. The address was voted in by 78 out of 100 deputies of the ARC Parliament.
Additionally, in 2011 the Parliament of Ukraine cancelled the referendum law, leaving no legal framework to hold local referendums within Ukraine’s territory.
“Ukraine does not possess any legal instruments or means to hold a referendum on Crimean territory. It is illegal and unconstitutional,” commented Ruslan Koshulynkyi, Vice-Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament).
“The core concept of scheduling the referendum by the ARC parliament is illegal. Additionally, the question of territorial integrity can only be discussed at the national level; there is no legal mechanism to hold referendums at local level,” commented the Minister of Justice of Ukraine, Pavlo Petrenko.
Even if held, the referendum will be recognized neither by Ukrainian nor by international authorities, added Koshulynskyi. Notably, Russia’s eventual recognition of the referendum will be a clear violation of the Helsinki Final Act.
On February 27, 2014, Head of Crimean Parliament Anatolyi Mohylyov was ousted and instantly substituted by self-proclaimed Head of Parliament Sergey Aksyonov, citizen of the Russian Federation. Ever since, Crimean inner policy was focused on breaking the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The situation was exacerbated by the presence of Russian troops in Crimea, which increased their presence on the peninsula as a consequence of the vote of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation on March 2, 2014.