Crimea's parliament has adopted a declaration of independence from Ukraine ahead of a March 16 referendum, according to Russia Today. "This document is very important both for the referendum and to further Crimea's joining Russia," an employee of the Crimean parliament's press service told Russian news agency RIA. The document was said to have been adopted during an extraordinary session of parliament. According to a journalist, 78 of 100 members of the parliament voted in favor of the declaration.
Earlier on Tuesday, ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych insisted that he was still Ukraine's legitimate president and commander-in-chief, saying he will return to Kiev. He appealed to the armed forces to defy any "criminal orders" handed down by his foes. In a defiant statement delivered in Russia, to which he fled last month, Yanukovych attacked what he called the "band of ultranationalists and neo-fascists" that have replaced his government, and criticized their Western backers.
"I want to ask the patrons of these dark forces in the West: Have you gone blind? Have you forgotten what fascism is?" Yanukovych told reporters in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don in his second appearance since his overthrow on Feb 22. "I am certain the officers and soldiers of Ukraine ... know what you are worth and will not carry out your criminal orders," said Yanukovych, who claims that opposition forces shot police and civilians during protests against his rule last month.
Yanukovych said a May 25 presidential election would be "illegal and illegitimate" and said he would return to Kiev "as soon as circumstances allow". "I'm sure the wait will not be long," he said. Yanukovich said Crimea was "breaking off" from Ukraine and blamed his foes.
He also said he will ask the US Congress and Supreme Court for a legal assessment of the US government's actions concerning his country. "The US plans to allocate $1 billion to that bandit regime, which contradicts US laws," Yanukovych told reporters.
Volunteers from self-defense units are taking an oath of allegiance to the people of Crimea as the autonomous republic puts together its own military in order to respond to possible provocations from Kiev, according to ITAR-TASS News Agency.
About 180 Crimean residents have already joined the local army, as oaths were taken in the republic's capital of Sevastopol on Monday and Saturday. All of the recruits were "carefully checked because they will be handed weapons," Aleksandr Bochkarev, head of the Crimean self-defense forces, told RIA. europe.chinadaily.com