In a move that should surprise no one, leaders from Russia's parliament said on Friday that they welcome Crimea's proposed March 16 referendum, which would allow Crimean citizens to vote to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Yesterday, President Obama said the referendum would "violate the Ukrainian constitution and international law."

"We will respect the historic choice of the people of Crimea," Sergei Y. Naryshkin, the speaker of the lower house, told the New York Times while Valentina I. Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the parliament's upper house, the Federation Council, described the vote as similar to Scotland's decision to to become independent from Britain (though London supported that vote; the new government in Kiev has rejected Crimea's referendum).

"It's sufficient to recall the referendum in Scotland," Matviyenko said, according to the Washington Post. "And the Crimean parliament has chosen the most democratic form: the referendum is the main criterion for the expression of people's will."

"The Federation Council will support the Crimean parliament's ruling on the referendum, and that ruling will be legitimate," she added.

Earlier, members of the parliament applauded delegates from Crimea, including Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyono, who'd travelled to Moscow to establish plans for joining Russia.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine's interim prime minister, responded by saying "no-one in the civilized world" would recognize the vote in Crimea.

Meanwhile, President Putin released a statement about his hour-long phone conversation on Thursday with President Obama. In the statement, released early Friday, Putin said the new government in Kiev had made "absolutely illegitimate decisions on the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions."

"Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law," Putin said, according to Reuters.

[Image via AP]