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Is The Crimean Claim Of Independence Constitutional?

First, I should highlight that we are looking just at the constitutional question and not whether the referendum is right or wrong. My colleague, Daisy Sindelar, addressed the constitutionality of the transition to the new government in Kyiv -- in much greater detail -- last month.

David Herszenhorn, a reporter for "The New York Times" who is currently in Crimea, looked into the question today and presented a convincing argument that the Crimean Parliament's declaration of independence is unconstitutional.

Herszenhorn extracts these two provisions from the Crimean Constitution to back up his point.

Article 1
1. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea shall be an integral part of Ukraine and it shall solve, within the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution of Ukraine, any and all matters coming within its terms of reference.

Article 6
5. No one shall be entitled to acquire or make use of any powers of authority in defiance of the Constitution of Ukraine, Ukrainian laws, the Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the statutory acts of the Supreme Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

The pro-Russian side has argued that extra-constitutional actions are warranted in light of what they say is the unconstitutionality of the changing of the government in Kyiv.

Ukraine and Western governments have argued that when former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital for Russia he effectively relinquished his presidential post.