Russia and Crimean politicians discuss referendum


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MOSCOW (AP) — The speaker for Russia's upper house of parliament says Crimea would be welcome as an "equal subject" in Russia if the region votes to leave Ukraine in an upcoming referendum.

Valentina Matvienko met with the head of Crimean parliament on Friday to discuss the region's possible accession to Russia. On Thursday, the parliament of Crimea voted to move the referendum date up by two weeks, to March 16, and to include a question on joining Russia.

Russia's parliament is planning to review a bill as early as next week that would speed up Crimea's integration into Russia. Crimea would be the first territory to officially join Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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