MOSCOW — Russia’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that a declaration of independence approved earlier by the pro-Moscow local parliament in Crimea was “absolutely lawful.”

“The Russian foreign ministry considers the decision of the parliament of Crimea absolutely lawful,” the ministry said in a statement on its website ahead of a Sunday referendum on whether the region should become part of Russia.

The local assembly approved a “declaration on the independence of the autonomous republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol,” with 78 out of 81 lawmakers present voting in favor.

The move by the parliament, which has been declared illegal by the new government in Kiev, appeared to be aimed at creating a legal framework for joining Russia as a sovereign state.

Russian state television on Tuesday was datelining reports from Crimea as “the republic of Crimea.”

“Russia will fully respect the results of the free expression of the will of the peoples of Crimea, during a referendum to which, as we know, observers have been invited from the OSCE and bilaterally,” the ministry said.

The ministry mentioned that the Crimean declaration passed Tuesday cited the granting of independence to Kosovo, saying that the United Nations found this did not breach international law.

Russia does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state, however.