A pro-Russia activist in front of Crimea’s legislature. (maxim Shipenkov/EPA)

Lawmakers in Crimea voted to hold a referendum on becoming part of Russia
The peninsular portion of Ukraine is somewhat autonomous, with its own parliament, which voted today to hold that referendum on March 16. Carol Morello, from Crimea, reports that the decision was wildly popular among many in Ukraine.

“Of course everyone will vote to be part of Russia, because we are Russian people,” a woman carrying a small pennant with a likeness of Putin told her.

Ukraine’s prime minister said the Crimean lawmakers’ decision is illegitimate, and a European Union official said the results wouldn’t be recognized by the West.

… and a Russian lawmaker reaches out a hand
Sergei Mironov, whom the Associated Press describes as a prominent member of Russia’s parliament, introduced a measure to make it easier for Crimea to join Russia.

Obama imposes new sanctions
The president ordered assets frozen and U.S. visas blocked for people who are determined to have impeded democracy. The executive order doesn’t specify who is included and whether it includes Russians as well as Ukrainians. These are the toughest measures yet.

Leaders of the European Union were gathering to decide whether to impose sanctions on Russia.

Col. Yuri Mamchur on Tuesday. (Ivan Sekretarev/AP)

Russian forces are reportedly offering apartments to those who pledge allegiance to Crimea
Col. Yuli Mamchur, who led the Ukrainian soldiers who engaged in a test of wills with Russian troops earlier this week, said Russians offered to provide apartments to about 350 people who work on the base and lack adequate housing.

“They have changed their tactics,” he told reporters after the talks concluded. “Before, they made ultimatums. Now they offer apartments.”