KIEV, March 17 -- The Crimean parliament declared independence on Monday from Ukraine, after official results from Sunday's referendum showed 96.77 percent of Crimean voters chose to join Russia.
The parliament has also formally sent application to the Kremlin to become a part of the Russian Federation as a new republic.
While the Ukrainian authorities peremptorily rejected the legitimacy of a referendum, which had paved the way for Crimea's independence, experts here were divided about the fate of the Black Sea peninsula after the decision to secede from Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials were unanimous about Sunday's voting in their statements, saying that the referendum violates the Ukrainian constitution while urging the international community to ignore its results.
Describing the referendum as a "great farce", Ukrainian acting President Alexandr Turchynov said the voting "will never be recognized either by Ukraine or the civilized international community."
Turchynov was joined by Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, who emphasized that splitting the country is unacceptable for Kiev.
"Crimea is a territory of the Ukrainian state. Our citizens reside there. We do not recognize and will never recognize the so- called referendum," Yatsenyuk said.
Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is widely expected to run in a presidential election on May 25, characterized the referendum as a "military seizure of Ukraine" and called on the parliament to bring the case to the Hague-based International Court of Justice.
"All involved in military aggression against our country must take personal responsibility according to international law," Tymoshenko said in a statement.
While authorities expect that international mediation may return Crimea into Ukraine's orbit, some experts here question that scenario.
"For now, we have lost Crimea," said Vladimir Gorbach, an analyst at the Kiev-based Institute of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation.
Gorbach said Russia, which made a number of decisive steps to back the referendum, is unlikely to change its position on the issue.
Political analyst Konstantin Bondarenko agreed with Gorbach, saying the results of the referendum indicate that the Black Sea peninsula has run out of Kiev's control.
"The uncertainty may last from six month to several decades. Russia is unlikely to abandon the idea to control Crimea," said Bondarenko, head of the Institute of Ukrainian politics.
However, some political analysts here doubted that Crimea would become part of Russia in the near future.
"Crimea's accession to Russia is practically impossible. It would trigger international sanctions and economic blockade. In addition, Crimea requires financial injections, which may become a burden on Russian economy and infrastructure," said Konstantin Matvienko, an expert with the Strategic Consulting Corporation " Gardarika".
The Crimean economy, which is 52 percent supported by the Ukrainian state, is facing serious economic challenges this year as its main industries, namely tourism and agriculture, were hit hard by the ongoing crisis.
Although some Ukrainians believe that the independence of Crimea, which has been heavily subsidized by the government for two decades, would benefit the country financially, experts feel Kiev would not abandon its plans to return the peninsula and preserve the territorial integrity of the state.
"Crimean issue is becoming a permanent headache of the Ukrainian authorities. In fact, it may be a hot spot of the country's destabilization," said Vitaly Bala, director of the Situations Modeling Agency of Ukraine.
Another expert, Vladimir Fesenko, director of the Penta Center of Applied Political Studies, said Kiev has a chance to retrieve Crimea if economic, social and political situation in Ukraine improves.
"If Ukraine starts a trend of rapid development, it would be a good example for Crimea. The people in Crimea may realize that a serious mistake was made and the situation can be replayed," Fesenko said.
Meanwhile, analyst Andrey Ermolaev suggested that the Ukrainian authorities should immediately adopt a new strategy for its internal policy to unite the country and prevent a possible separation of the peninsula.
"The Ukrainian government should offer its own clear strategy in the economic, demographic and cultural spheres to resolve the Crimean issue," said Ermolaev, head of the Institute for Strategic Studies "New Ukraine".
Ermolaev said Kiev should create a new inclusive government, consisting of representatives of different political forces to improve its image among the people in Crimea and other mostly Russian-speaking region in the country's south and east.