Crimea sets referendum on whether to join Russia

UKRAINE - Lawmakers in the embattled Crimean region of Ukraine have decided to hold a referendum March 16 on whether Crimea should become part of Russia.

One lawmaker (Sergei Shuvainikov) says, "This is our response to the disorder and lawlessness in Kiev. He says, "We will decide our future ourselves."

The parliament in Crimea, which enjoys a degree of autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78 with eight abstentions in favor of holding the referendum. Local voters will also be given the choice of deciding to remain part of Ukraine, but with enhanced local powers.

The new leader of Ukraine's Crimea region says pro-Russian forces control all access to the strategic peninsula and have blockaded all Ukrainian military bases that have not yet surrendered.

Sergei Aksyonov says riot police and security forces have been joined by 11,000 self-defense troops.

All or most of these troops are believed to be Russian, even though the Russian president and defense minister have denied sending in troops.

A U.N. official says a U.N. envoy sent to Crimea to monitor the situation was threatened by up to 15 armed men.

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