Moscow - Russia's parliament will abide by the "historic choice" to be made by Crimea when the Ukrainian region's people vote in a referendum on joining Russia later this month, the speaker of the Russian lower house said.
"We will respect the historic choice of the people of Crimea," said State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin, in comments strongly implying that the Russian legislature would ratify a vote in favour of joining Russia.
"We support the free and democratic choice of the population of Crimea," he added, quoted by Russian news agencies at a meeting with a delegation of Crimean lawmakers, led by Crimea's parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov.
Crimea's parliament the day earlier said it had agreed to ask President Vladimir Putin for the region to become part of Russia and would put the issue to a referendum on 16 March.
Naryshkin said the move was linked to the need to ensure the "rights and freedom of citizens and simply protect human life" in Crimea, amid Ukraine's turmoil after the fall of president Viktor Yanukovych.
But he acknowledged that it was also prompted by reasons of "historical, spiritual and world-point-of-view character."
The head of the State Duma's committee for relations with ex-Soviet states, Leonid Slutsky, said that parliament would move fast after the referendum to recognise the result.
"I think that literally in the next days after the referendum the State Duma will formalise the decision in the proper way," he said.
Crimea's pro-Russia leaders have predicted that Crimeans will vote overwhelmingly in favour of joining Russia.