Russia will support democratic choice of Crimean population - State Duma speaker

Russian State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin has announced Russia's readiness to respect any choice to be made by Crimean citizens in the March 16 referendum. "We will treat this historic choice of the Crimean population with respect," Naryshkin said at a meeting with the autonomous republic's delegation in the State Duma on Friday. "We will support the free and democratic choice of the population of Crimea and Sevastopol," he said.

Crimean Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Konstantynov heads the autonomous republic's delegation to Moscow.

"No matter what happens to us, the referendum will go ahead and the situation will be clarified for Crimean citizens," Konstantynov said. It is obvious that the country that Crimea once loved no longer exists, he said.

"We do not understand this new entity. It is illegitimate. We are scared of it," Konstantynov said.

All of the decisions being adopted by the autonomous republic today are legitimate, he said. "We are heading in the right direction," he said.

The Crimean Supreme Council's decision that Crimea should become a part of Russia is historic, Konstantynov said.

"There is just one nuance - will Russia agree to accept us?" he said.

A rally commenced near the State Duma building on Friday morning, before the arrival of a Crimean Supreme Council delegation, to support Crimean-Russian friendship.

Public organizations People's Militia and Officers of Russia organized the rally.

The demonstrators were chanting, "Russia and Crimea - Friends Forever."

About 300 people are standing at the intersection of Bolshaya Dmitrovka and Mokhovaya Streets, according to the approximate estimates.

The Crimean Supreme Council delegation led by Speaker Volodymyr Konstantynov met with Russian parliamentarians at the State Duma on Friday morning.

Russia's State Duma faction leaders back Crimean legislature's decisions, March 16 referendum

The leaders of all four factions represented in the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, have declared their support for the Crimean Parliament's decisions and the March 16 referendum on the autonomous republic's future status.

"The will of citizens is sacred for me, as a human being and a political figure. And we will support it as strongly as possible," Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said at a meeting with Crimean Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Konstantynov and his delegation in Moscow on Friday.

State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin is presiding over the meeting.

The chamber's deputy speaker and United Russia faction leader, Vladimir Vasilyev, for his part, said at the meeting that the State Duma resolutely supports the Crimean population in this difficult time, after the Maidan protesters came to power in Kiev.

"The absolute majority of Russian citizens were delighted and proud to learn of the decisions adopted by the Supreme Council of Crimea," State Duma Deputy Speaker and United Russia MP Sergei Zheleznyak said.

Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who also attended the meeting with the Crimean delegation, said that millions of Russian citizens were pleased to hear the news of the Crimean Parliament's decisions.

"It has been the most joyous piece of news since 1945," he said.

Zhirinovsky called on Crimean citizens not to be afraid of anything because Russia would certainly support the results of this referendum.

"I would like to assure you that everything will happen just the way the people of Crimea want it to happen.You should stand firm. You should not have any doubts," he said.

"People will carry you on their shoulders. Your names will create a new chapter in the history of Crimea," Zhirinovsky said.

A Just Russia faction first deputy chairman Mikhail Yemelynov also assured the Crimean delegation that Russian MPs would support the decisions that would be democratically made at Crimea's referendum.

"Russia is able to extend financial support to Crimea, and we will prepare amendments to the budget in the near future," he said.

State Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Leonid Slutsky, for his part, said that "a few days after the referendum [in Crimea], the State Duma will document a decision that will be made by the people of Crimea in the referendum."

"[Russian] deputies are supporting you in the most resolute manner," Naryshkin told the Crimean delegation at the end of the meeting.

Voice of Russia, Interfax