SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Crimea’s parliament on Monday declared the region an independent state after a referendum in which voters elected overwhelmingly to break off from Ukraine and seek to join Russia.
In the same resolution, it said that all Ukrainian state property on the territory of the Black Sea peninsula will be nationalized and become the property of the Crimean Republic.
Sunday’s referendum is not recognized by the West, and the United States and the European Union are preparing sanctions against Russia, whose troops have been occupying Crimea for several weeks.
Crimean lawmakers have asked the United Nations and other nations to recognize it.
A delegation of Crimean lawmakers is set to travel to Moscow Monday for negotiations on how to proceed further. Russian lawmakers have suggested that formally annexing Crimea is just a matter of time.
Final results of the referendum in Crimea show that 97 percent of voters supported leaving Ukraine to join Russia, the head of the referendum election commission said Monday.
Mikhail Malyshev told a televised news conference that the final tally from Sunday’s vote was 96.8 percent in favor of splitting from Ukraine. He also said that the commission has not registered a single complaint about the vote.
The referendum was widely condemned by Western leaders who were planning to discuss economic sanctions to punish Russia on Monday. Ukraine’s new government in Kiev called the referendum a “circus” directed at gunpoint by Moscow.
But Valery Ryazantsev, head of Russia’s observer mission in Crimea and a lawmaker from the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Monday that the results are beyond dispute. He told the Interfax news agency that there are “absolutely no reasons to consider the vote results illegitimate.”
Senior officials in Moscow were discussing Crimea’s annexation as a fait accompli. Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said the region could receive tax breaks.
The vote came less than three months after Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych, shelved plans to upgrade economic ties with the European Union and instead accept a Russian offer of loans and reduced energy prices. That triggered demonstrations by pro-Western Ukrainians which turned violent, eventually forcing Yanukovych to flee.
The Crimean peninsula has been controlled for two weeks now by troops under apparent Russian command.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.