Crimea assembly votes to declare independence

|By:, SA News Editor

Crimea's parliament has voted to declare independence from Ukraine ahead of a referendum this weekend in which the region's citizens will decide whether to join Russia.

Ukraine's parliament has said it will dissolve the Crimean assembly if it doesn't drop the referendum by tomorrow, although how much power Ukraine has in the province is looking rather questionable.

In other developments" Russia and the U.S. have declined to take part in new talks on the crisis; Ukraine is testing its military's combat readiness and may mobilize 20,000 people; a pro-Russian force opened fire when capturing a Ukrainian military base in Crimea yesterday; and NATO is carrying out reconnaissance flights over its eastern frontier.

In the U.S., the Senate is preparing an aid package for Ukraine that would include IMF funding.

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