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Crimea Moves to Join Russia: VIDEO

BY DAN PELESCHUK / GlobalPost

Legislators have set a referendum for next week.

MOSCOW, Russia — Crimea’s pro-Russian parliament voted on Thursday to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, a move likely to thrust post-revolutionary Ukraine into deeper chaos and further inflame tensions between Russia and the West.

CrimeaCrimean lawmakers appealed to President Vladimir Putin and Russia's parliament to "begin the process of entering the Russian Federation," according to a note posted to the Crimean parliament's web site.

They justified the vote by claiming the “anti-constitutional coup” by “nationalist forces” in Kyiv that resulted in President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster last month poses a threat to human rights and freedom of expression in the heavily pro-Russian region.

A referendum previously scheduled for March 30 will instead take place on March 16, when Crimeans will be asked whether they prefer to stay in Ukraine or “reunify” Russia, a nod to the region’s long history under Moscow before being transferred to Ukraine in 1954.

“This is our response to the disorder and lawlessness in Kyiv,” Sergei Shuvainikov, a Crimean parliamentarian, told the Associated Press Thursday.

“We will decide our future ourselves.”

It remains unclear just how the region — home to an ethnic Russian majority and controlled since last week by thousands of Russian troops — would proceed logistically with secession.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk dismissed the vote as illegitimate. But the Kyiv authorities have so far been reluctant to deploy Ukraine's outmanned and outgunned military forces against the Russian troops currently occupying Crimea.

Now, all eyes are trained on Russia.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters his country would not seek to annex Crimea, and as of Thursday evening, the Kremlin had issued no comments on the referendum plans.

However, a leading Russian lawmaker said his country’s parliament would consider a draft law paving the way for Russia’s annexation of Crimea as early as next week.



Both Moscow and the local authorities in Crimea — whose prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov, was installed last week amid the presence of heavily armed Russian troops — refuse to recognize the post-revolutionary government in Kyiv.

They claim the new Ukrainian authorities are “neo-Nazis” seeking to restore their own brand of order in Russian-speaking southeastern Ukraine.

State-controlled media in Russia has bombarded viewers with propaganda insisting the post-Yanukovych authorities would seek to oppress local ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, despite numerous claims to the contrary from Kyiv.

Sergei Markov, a top Kremlin-connected analyst in Moscow, even claimed the “neo-fascist” groups that helped overthrow Yanukovych would eventually turn their sights against Russia itself.

“They could easily send their army of activists to Russia to join local separatists and foment rebellion in the North Caucasus and other unstable regions in Russia,” he wrote in The Moscow Times on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the White House on Thursday announced visa sanctions against Russian and Crimean officials who are “threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

It added that it would take “further steps” if the situation deteriorates.

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Comments

  1. And so the despot Putin continues with his plan of conquest and domination.

    Posted by: Jack M | Mar 7, 2014 9:23:42 AM


  2. Eh. Crimea can be seen as Putin's conquest only if you ignore "the region’s long history under Moscow before being transferred to Ukraine" - and the way the transfer happened, against people's will and even against the law. Sure, Putin's methods look crude - but they're necessary, seeing that the new Ukrainian prime minister predictably dismissed the referendum as illegitimate (oh, the irony).

    Frankly, I don't get the point of all the Crimea coverage - it's important, of course, but where's the gay angle?

    Posted by: Eugene | Mar 7, 2014 9:48:02 AM


  3. Given the large number of neo-Nazis in Russia, I'm surprised that Ukrainian neo-Nazis wouldn't want to join Russia to be w/ their brothers in bigotry.

    Posted by: Mark | Mar 7, 2014 10:28:47 AM


  4. Let Crimea secede, Why should we care? We dont have a dog in this fight.

    Posted by: elwoodl | Mar 7, 2014 12:16:48 PM


  5. If I were in Ukraine, I'd be glad to be rid of Crimea, even if I weren't happy with the way it was happening. Ukraine has seemed unnecessarily hostile to their Russian speaking minority, immediately repealing a minority language law after the recent takeover. It's like they don't care if they incite rebellion.

    Posted by: Merv | Mar 7, 2014 1:20:23 PM


  6. We don't have a horse in this race. If it is accomplished through a proper referendum, then who are we to tell what the people there should do.

    Posted by: simon | Mar 7, 2014 1:41:30 PM


  7. @Merv
    They're trying to build a Ukrainian identity and distance themselves from Russia. That's why they feel like they need to stamp out Russian language and culture. The most recent development is that the new administration is going to take offline Russian language versions of the government's official sites.

    Posted by: Eugene | Mar 7, 2014 2:25:17 PM


  8. There's a significant factual error here: the choices on the ballot are not "whether they prefer to stay in Ukraine or 'reunify' Russia." The ballot does give two choices, but those are to either become part of Russia or become an "independent" country. Voters will not be allowed to say they want to remain in Ukraine. (Source: http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/two-choices-in-crimean-referendum-yes-and-yes-338745.html).

    As someone who used to live in Ukraine and has many loved ones there, I'd highly recommend reading the KyivPost for the best English-language coverage on Ukrainian issues.

    Posted by: Scott | Mar 7, 2014 11:36:32 PM


  9. Also, the repeal of the Russian language law never happened. Parliament voted to repeal it, but the interim president vetoed the repeal. So, no change has happened to the official status of Russian. There's a lot of misinformation being spread by the Kremlin now. Let's not help their cause by repeating it.

    Posted by: Scott | Mar 7, 2014 11:38:34 PM


  10. And one more comment (sorry, I should have read all comments before replying). I know the "gay angle" isn't being mentioned in the Western press, but it actually is a very integral part of this debate on the future of Ukraine. Last May, the Rada (parliament) voted down an anti-discrimination bill that would have made gay people a protected class. It was considered an integral part of future integration with Europe, and was one of the first hints that the former president and his party weren't interested in Europe no matter what he said publicly. The Anti-Maidan counter protests often cite gay marriage and gay rights as reasons to not join Europe, and would prefer moving closer to Russia because it will allow discrimination to continue. One of my best friends joined the EuroMaidan protests, and his parents asked him, "Why do you support gay marriage?" So yes, the status of gay citizens has been an integral part of this revolution and now the counter-revolution and invasion. It just doesn't get much mention in the English-language coverage.

    Posted by: Scott | Mar 7, 2014 11:46:52 PM


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