MOSCOW Russia's lower house of parliament will pass legislation allowing Ukraine's Crimea region to join Russia "in the very near future", Interfax news agency quoted the chamber's deputy speaker as saying on Monday.
With three-quarters of Sunday's ballots counted in Crimea, support for union with Russia was running at 95.7 percent, officials said of a referendum which has plunged East-West relations to lows not seen since the Cold War.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will respect the will of the people in Crimea, ignoring Western leaders who say the referendum was illegal because Russian forces have seized the southern region.
"The results of the referendum in Crimea clearly showed that residents of Crimea see their future only as part of Russia," the deputy speaker of the State Duma, Sergei Neverov, was quoted as saying.
Duma officials say the Black Sea peninsula can become a member of the Russian Federation under current legislation, specifically under a law "On the procedure for the adoption into the Russian Federation and education of new subjects of the Russian Federation" that was passed in 2001, Interfax said.
First Crimea's appeal to join Russia will be sent to Putin. If approved, Putin will then pass it to the upper and lower houses of parliament, which will work on a treaty to be signed between Russia and the new state.
Under the treaty, a transitional period could be set for the new subject to be integrated into Russia's economic, financial, credit and legal systems.
Following its signing, Russia's constitutional court should then verify the treaty. It should then be voted on by both houses of parliament, the Duma and the Federation Council.
"I do not think there will be any delays in considering these questions in either the State Duma or Federation Council. We are ready to pass all the required legal decisions as quickly as possible," the Federation Council's deputy speaker, Ilyas Umakhanov, told Rossiya-24 television.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly, writing by Elizabeth Piper, Editing by Timothy Heritage)