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Russian assembly says Crimea's parliament has right to referendum

Protesters call for U.S. action against possible Russian incursions into Ukraine, in front of the White House in Washington March 1, 2014. R
Protesters call for U.S. action against possible Russian incursions into Ukraine, in front of the White House in Washington March 1, 2014. R

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Crimea's parliament has the right to hold a referendum on the region's future status and if its people vote to join Russia, Russia's upper house of parliament will support their decision, the assembly's speaker said on Friday.

Dismissing suggestions that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine, Valentina Matviyenko supported the decision by parliament in Ukraine's southern region on Thursday to hold a referendum on joining Russia on March 16.

"Yesterday we learned about the historic decision taken by the Crimean parliament to hold a referendum on accession, on entry into the Russian Federation," said Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Russian Federation Council.

"Without a doubt, the Crimean parliament, as a legitimate authority, has that right ... The sovereign right of the people to determine their future," she said, welcoming a delegation from Crimea which included the region's new Moscow-installed leader, Vladimir Konstantinov.

The talks took place after the most serious international confrontation of this century escalated when Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia and moved up the date for the referendum.

"If the people of Crimea take the decision in the referendum to join Russia, we, as the upper house, will of course support such a decision," said Matviyenko.

She dismissed suggestions there would be war between Russia and Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had the right to invade if the situation in Ukraine worsened.

"It's complete nonsense, it absolutely does not reflect our intentions, the feelings of empathy and the pain we feel for the Ukrainian people," she said.

"We are absolutely sure that there will never be a war between the two brotherly nations."

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly and Ludmila Danilova; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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