The parliament of Crimea has voted unanimously “to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation” – and will hold a referendum on its decision within ten days.

The parliament’s deputy said the move was a response to “constant threats from the current illegal Ukrainian authorities.”

The move is the latest escalation in the Ukraine crisis – which began a week ago when Russian forces invaded the Crimean peninsula, an autonomous Republic located on a peninsula of Ukraine on the Black Sea.

Crimea has a Russian ethnic majority. So does Eastern Ukraine, which may be next on the list of territories to fall under Russian control.

The Crimean parliament’s decision was swiftly rebuked by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk – who claimed it was “illegal.”

Yatsenyuk also pleaded with Russian President Vladimir Putin “not to support those who advocate separatism.”

Yeah … good luck with that …

Western powers have limited options at their disposal for dealing with this latest round of Russian aggression – which is, frankly, as it should be.

So far, U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to impose sanctions on those “responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine,” but it’s not immediately clear what sort of sanctions he’s referring to – or whether they will have any impact on the crisis.

Real economic sanctions against Russia are unlikely because Germany – the industrial heart of the European Union – depends on Russian natural gas to power its factories.

“Maybe the American people or the government or whoever raises their eyebrows can say how could the Europeans be so moderate on the debate over sanctions,” Siemens President and Chief Executive Joe Kaeser. “Guess what? You don’t want to sanction anyone you depend on.”

That makes all the tough talk coming from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a bit difficult to take seriously – and explains why Obama is becoming increasingly isolated internationally in his calls for economic reprisals.

“With each passing day, Putin consolidates his new territory even as the west dithers, Europe is unable to obtain the bailout loans it has promised Ukraine, and Kerry keeps talking,” the website Zero Hedge noted.

Indeed …