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Crimean Parliament Sends OSCE Invitation To Monitor Referendum

A man holds a Soviet flag as he attends a pro-Russian rally at the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol on March 6.
Crimea's parliament has sent the OSCE an invitation to monitor the March 16 referendum -- dismissed as illegitimate by Kyiv and Western leaders -- on seceding from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.

Officials at the parliament said the invitation to observe the poll was sent on March 10 to Switzerland, the country currently holding the OSCE's rotating presidency.

OSCE military observers have attempted to enter Crimea several times since late last week and have been turned back each time by armed men from pro-Russian militia groups in Crimea.

Crimea's parliament pushed through the decision to hold the referendum barely three weeks after the government of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych crumbled.

Many Western governments have already said they do not recognize the right of Crimea's parliament to conduct a referendum on splitting from Ukraine and will not recognize the peninsula's annexation by Russia.

Based on reporting by Reuters and ITAR-TASS