Crimea Sets Referendum on Joining Russia

A woman holds a poster against war at Kiev's Independence Square, in Ukraine, Thursday, March 6, 2014. The Heads of State of the EU will meet Thursday in emergency session in Brussels to discuss the situation in Ukraine. The destroyed trade union offices which was burned in clashes seen in the background. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

[The Washington Post]

People attend a funeral ceremony for Andryi Pozniak, 25, a self defense volunteer who was shot and killed by an unknown assailant two days ago near Kiev's Independence Square, Ukraine, Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/David Azia)
People attend a funeral ceremony for Andryi Pozniak, 25, a self defense volunteer who was shot and killed by an unknown assailant two days ago near Kiev’s Independence Square, Ukraine, Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/David Azia)

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine — Pro-Russian lawmakers in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea sparked a showdown reminiscent of the Cold War on Thursday, accelerating their bid to leave Ukraine and join Russia in a move that President Obama, the new government in Kiev and European leaders described as provocative and illegal.

The renegade lawmakers in the autonomous region, who came to power on the back of an armed incursion at parliament, voted Thursday to join the Russian Federation and hold a referendum March 16 to validate the decision.

The regional parliament, now led by Sergei Aksyonov — a businessman and politician known around Kiev as the “Goblin” because of his alleged ties to organized crime, vowed to nationalize Ukrainian state industries and begin setting up government ministries separate from Ukraine, which it joined in 1954 when the nation was still a satellite of the Soviet Union.

“This is our response to the disorder and lawlessness in Kiev,” Sergei Shuvainikov, a member of the Crimean legislature, said Thursday. “We will decide our future ourselves.”

In Washington, Obama said the world was “well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders,” as his administration imposed sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians involved in Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

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