Crimea assembly votes for independence from Ukraine
An armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, holds a Crimea flag as members of a pro-Russian self defence unit stand in a formation before taking an oath to Crimea government in Simferopol March 10, 2014. REUTERS PhotoPro-Moscow lawmakers in Crimea voted for independence from Ukraine on Tuesday in a precursor to a referendum this weekend for the region to 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 favour.
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.
The parliament's press service said in a statement that independence would come into force after the referendum if the result is in favour of Crimea becoming part of the Russian Federation.
The declaration referred to Kosovo's separation from Serbia, adding that "the unilateral declaration of independence of part of a state does not violate any international laws." If the referendum is in favour of Russia, "the republic of Crimea as an independent and sovereign state will apply to the Russian Federation to join it".
Crimea said to close air space to commercial flights
Crimea has closed its airspace to commercial flights, five days ahead of a referendum organised by its pro-Russia authorities called to join the Black Sea region to Russia.
A Ukrainian airline plane was turned back on Tuesday on its way from Kiev to Simferopol, the region's main city, and had to return to the Ukrainian capital.
The captain told passengers that the Crimean authorities had closed airspace to all commercial flights and there had been no flights on Monday either.