SIMFEROPOL, March 5 (RAPSI) – Sevastopol, a major southern Ukrainian city and a naval base may join the Autonomous Republic of Crimea after a referendum, according to the statement of Supreme Council’s speaker Konstantinov, released on Thursday.

On March 16, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea will hold a referendum that will determine whether the republic will go back to the 1992 constitution model, or will petition to join the Russian Federation as a regional subject.

On February 25 a group of Crimean residents started an open-ended protest rally at the parliament building. They demand that the republican parliament refuse to recognize the new Ukrainian leadership, which has come to power through public unrest and bloody clashes in Kiev, and hold a referendum to choose the development path for the Crimea.

On February 27, Vasily Aksyonov, leader of the “Russian Unity” movement was appointed prime minister. Later, Aksyonov declared that more than 5,500 of Ukrainian soldiers defected to the command of the autonomous republic of Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier said that the current Crimean Prime Minister was legitimate, as all necessary and lawful procedures in his election were compliant with the law.

Russia’s upper house of parliament approved the use of the armed forces in Ukraine – which shares an extensive land border with Russia – over the weekend, which was criticized by the US and a number of European countries.  Notably, US Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC’s “Meet the Press” show Sunday that the United States and some of its allies were “prepared to go to the hilt to isolate Russia.”