By Rebecca Shabad - 03/17/14 07:27 AM EDT
Crimea’s parliament declared its independence on Monday, and formally applied to join Russia one day after nearly 97 percent of its population voted in a referendum to secede.
The parliament "made a proposal to the Russian Federation to admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic," a statement on its website says.
Members of Crimea’s parliament were expected to visit Moscow on Monday to discuss further procedures on their bid to join Russia, according to multiple reports.
Crimea is an autonomous peninsula that had been part of the Soviet Union until 1991 and whose population has an ethnic Russian majority.
The lower house of Russia’s parliament, according to reports, said on Monday it would pass legislation allowing Crimea to join Russia in the “very near future.”
The United States repeated its warnings to Russia that the referendum would not be considered legal. President Obama spoke to Putin on Sunday afternoon and suggested Russia will face consequences.
“[Obama] emphasized that Russia’s actions were in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that, in coordination with our European partners, we are prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions,” the White House statement read.
The statement did not spell out whether Obama specifically threatened to impose sanctions, which the administration and European Union members are expected to institute in the coming days. Obama encouraged Putin to pursue a diplomatic solution instead.
The speaker of Crimea’s parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, said authorities in their new republic will do everything to achieve independence from Ukraine’s national government in Kiev.
Crimea’s entry into the Russian federation does not infringe on anyone’s interests, he added, according to a statement on the parliament’s website.