Article 73 of the Ukrainian constitution says that issues relating to borders must involve a "referendum across the whole of the Ukraine." And that's why the UN and the US say the Crimean referendum set for March 16 is illegal.
The EU, meeting in Brussels, threatened "serious consequences" if Russia did not act to de-escalate the crisis. The referendum is expected to reveal that an overwhelming majority of Crimean citizens will chose to become part of Russia. "We're Russian already" people in the street are saying. This will suit Putin very well as it will take the Russian Black Sea Fleet out of Ukranian territory and into his complete control.
Yesterday the Crimean Parliament said it had decided "to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation" and asked Putin "to start the procedure."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy both said the Crimean referendum was contrary to the Ukrainian constitution and therefore illegal. They would decide on additional measures such as travel bans, asset freezes and the cancellation of the EU Russian Summit.
David Cameron drew parallels with World War II saying "It matters because we know from our history that turning a blind eye when nations are trampled all over and their independence trashed...... that stores up far greater problems in the long run."
To deny that the majority of Crimean citizens want to become part of Russia would be foolish and a democratic referendum will remove all doubt. And if they do leave, Ukraine will be left to struggle on alone, broke and very vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Putin does nothing. He sits back and pretends the situation is beyond his control and he's just overseeing a democratic process being played out in Crimea. He knows he could defuse the crisis in a heartbeat, but chooses not to.