Crimea’s parliament pushes for independence

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A woman holds a banner that reads: “Putin is Occupier” during a rally against the breakup of the country in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The Crimean parliament voted Tuesday that the Black Sea peninsula will declare itself an independent state if its residents agree to split off from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum. Crimea’s regional legislature on Tuesday adopted a “declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” The document specified that Crimea will become an independent state if its residents vote on Sunday in favor of joining Russia in the referendum. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

A woman holds a banner that reads: “Putin is Occupier” during a rally against the breakup of the country in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The Crimean parliament voted Tuesday that the Black Sea peninsula will declare itself an independent state if its residents agree to split off from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum. Crimea’s regional legislature on Tuesday adopted a “declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” The document specified that Crimea will become an independent state if its residents vote on Sunday in favor of joining Russia in the referendum. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

A Crimean Tatar man prays at a mosque in Bakhchysarai, Ukraine, Monday, March 10, 2014. The arrival of Russian troops in Crimea has opened old wounds among the Crimean Tatars, who once again fear they will be unwelcome in their homeland. This time, however, some are organizing community watch patrols to protect their families and homes in what they still consider part of Ukraine. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

People hold Ukrainian flags and banners that read: “Putin! Take away the green men”, “They got me married without me being there”, “Referendum is a step to war”, during a rally against the breakup of the country in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The Crimean parliament voted Tuesday that the Black Sea peninsula will declare itself an independent state if its residents agree to split off from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum. Crimea’s regional legislature on Tuesday adopted a “declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” The document specified that Crimea will become an independent state if its residents vote on Sunday in favor of joining Russia in the referendum. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

A person wearing a balaclava attends a rally against the breakup of the country in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Tuesday March 11, 2014. The Crimean parliament voted Tuesday that the Black Sea peninsula will declare itself an independent state if its residents agree to split off from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum. Crimea’s regional legislature on Tuesday adopted a “declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” The document specified that Crimea will become an independent state if its residents vote on Sunday in favor of joining Russia in the referendum. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

A man holds a banner that reads: “Boycott Illegal Referendum!” during a rally against the breakup of the country Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The Crimean parliament voted Tuesday that the Black Sea peninsula will declare itself an independent state if its residents agree to split off from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum. Crimea’s regional legislature on Tuesday adopted a “declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” The document specified that Crimea will become an independent state if its residents vote on Sunday in favor of joining Russia in the referendum. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Crimea’s Parliament said Tuesday that if the public votes to become part of Russia, the peninsula will declare itself independent and propose becoming a Russian state. That could offer a way of de-escalating the standoff between Russia and the West.

The vote in Crimea’s Parliament about Sunday’s referendum could give Moscow the option of saying there is no need for Crimea to become part of Russia.

The dispute between Moscow and the West over Crimea is one of the most severe geopolitical crises in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Russian forces have secured control over the peninsula, but Ukraine’s government and Western nations have denounced the referendum as illegitimate and strongly warned Russia against trying to annex Crimea.

The Crimean Parliament’s declaration could put the bid to join Russia on hold, depending on the outcome of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bargaining with the West.

In Sunday’s referendum, the public will be given two options: becoming part of Russia, or remaining in Ukraine with broader powers.

Crimea, where Russia maintains its Black Sea Fleet base, became the epicenter of tensions in Ukraine after President Viktor Yanukovych fled last month in the wake of months of protests and outbreaks of bloodshed.

Kiev-based political analyst Vadim Karasyov said the Crimean Parliament’s move is “a message to the West that there is no talk about Russia incorporating Crimea.” He said “It’s a tranquilizer for everybody — for the West and for many in Ukraine who are panicking.”

Karasyov speculated that Crimea could exist as a “quasi-legitimate” state, while Russia and the West negotiate.

After a brief war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, some leaders in Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia lobbied to join Russia, but their request was never granted.

Putin’s “task now is to get a stake in the shareholding company called Ukraine. He believes that the West now has the majority stake and he doesn’t even have a blocking package,” Karasyov told the AP. “So Crimea is an attempt to get a blocking package.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry later said in a statement that the Crimean parliament’s action was legitimate. “Russia will respect the results of Crimea’s referendum that will be monitored by OSCE observers,” the ministry said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone Tuesday at Washington’s initiative.

“From the Russian side, the necessity was

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