KIEV, February 27 (RAPSI) – The Crimean Verkhovna Rada (parliament) has initiated a referendum on amending the autonomy status and broadening its governing options, the Sevastopolskaya Gazeta daily reports on Thursday.

Addressing the people of Crimea, the statement reads: “Crimeans, as a result of the unconstitutional takeover of Ukraine by radical nationalists with the aide of armed militants, the peace and tranquility in Crimea is under threat. Yesterday’s clash outside the parliamentary building that led to bloodshed and fatalities, is the result of rampant political extremism and a wave of violence that engrossed the country. Under these circumstances, Verkhovna Rada of the autonomous republic of Crimea, acting on the will of the people that elected it, assumes full responsibility for the destiny of Crimea.”

Last weekend Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) ousted and impeached President Viktor Yanukovich, appointed as acting president Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov, and scheduled presidential elections for May 25. Several acting ministers were appointed this week.

Protesters in the southern peninsula have staged rallies against Ukraine’s new leaders. A Russian-speaking mayor has been appointed in Sevastopol, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based. Nearly 60% of the Crimean population is comprised of ethnic Russians.

Yanukovich previously stated that he remains the legally elected president and that there is evidence of a state coup. Russia has questioned the legitimacy of the Ukrainian parliament’s decisions.

On February 22, a conference in Kharkiv attended by deputies of southern and eastern Ukraine adopted a resolution according to which these regions’ authorities assumed responsibility for maintaining constitutional order. The resolution also questions the legitimacy of the parliament’s decisions made after Yanukovich signed an agreement to settle the crisis with the opposition leaders from the UDAR, Batkivshchina, and Svoboda (Freedom) parties.