The ballot paper for the contest, which was published by parliament, disclosed that Crimean voters will be given two options: either immediate “reunification” with Russia, or adopting the “1992 constitution” — which gives parliament the power to vote to join Russia.
The status quo, whereby Crimea has autonomy within Ukraine, does not appear on the ballot paper. In practise, experts said that this amounted to giving voters the choice between joining Russia immediately or joining Russia after a short delay.
“Those citizens who were content with Crimea remaining part of Ukraine on the same basis as it has been for the last 20 years do not have a voice in this referendum. There is no third option available,” said Keir Giles, an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia programme at Chatham House.
The referendum has been called at only 10 days’ notice. Rallies in favour of staying in Ukraine have been attacked by pro-Russian mobs. International observers have been excluded from monitoring the contest, with some having live rounds fired over their heads at Crimea’s new border with Ukraine.’