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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Crimean crisis: tensions escalate on the eve of the referendum, amid official decision about dismissal of Crimean Parliament and international pressure

Massive rallies in Kyiv Maidan (Independence Square)
(Image: National Post)
Situation in Ukrainian Crimea, occupied by Russian military troops and controlled by the self-proclaimed pro-Russian puppet Parliament and government, remains tense, as Russia refuses to de-escalate situation, and Crimean authorities insist on holding illegitimate “referendum” about potential joining Russia.

Despite the continuous demands of Ukrainian government to immediately withdraw the troops and military technique from Ukrainian territory and growing international pressure, Russia continues to increase its military presence in Crimea and also along the Ukrainian-Russian borders, deploying new troops and military technique on the eve of the Crimean “referendum”, scheduled for Sunday, 16 March. Ukrainian military bases and soldiers remain under Russian siege, as there were no commands fro Ukrainian Armed Forces to respond with force. In addition to that Russian troops are moving towards mainland Ukraine, as a group of Russian paratroopers has landed in Kherson region, but was prevented by Ukrainian soldiers.

The “referendum” in Crimea was declared illegitimate by Ukrainian government and international community, and none of the countries in the world except of Russia is going to recognize it. OSCE, EU and other international organizations have officially declared that they will not send their observers to monitor the poll as this “referendum” cannot be legitimate and won’t represent the will of Crimean people.

Massive rally in support of Ukrainian integrity and unity
in Kharkiv
(Image: Daily News of Egypt)
Ukrainian High Constitutional Court has declared earlier total illegitimacy of the Crimean referendum, as there is no possibility of holding a regional referendum over the issues of Constitutional and legal status of specific territories. In addition to that, referendum cannot be held under the conditions of foreign military intervention and occupation, not to mention extremely short period of time before the polls.

European Council’s Venice Commission has also stated on Saturday after reviewing the case, that referendum in Crimea is illegitimate and contradicts not only Ukrainian Constitution and laws, but also international law and norms.

Leader of Mejlis of Crimea Tatars Refat Chubarov has called on Crimeans to boycott this referendum and to stay calm, avoiding provocations and confrontations. Ex-Head of Mejlis Mustafa Jemilev, who had earlier a meeting with Putin, has also called to boycott the referendum, and he also addressed to the international community to support Ukraine. Mr. Jemilev also addressed on NATO and UN to deploy their peacekeeping troops and support Ukraine due to an increasing Russian military aggression and a serious threat of a full-scale war-conflict.

Ukrainian Parliament has gathered on Saturday for the session over the current situation in Ukraine and Crimea and voted for official dismissal of Crimean parliament due to its separatist and anti-Constitutional policies and activities. It’s worth mentioning also, that Ukrainian General Prosecution has opened several criminal cases regarding separatist attempts in Ukraine, including Crimea. Thus, 278 MPs of Ukrainian Parliament have voted for dismissal of Crimean Parliament and demanded also cancelling of the referendum. Crimean Parliament though refused to recognize this decision and stated that referendum will be held.

Massive anti-war and pro-Ukrainian rally held in Moscow
(Image: Russia Today)
Russia also supports the upcoming referendum claiming that it has no intentions of annexing of some of Ukrainian territories, but people’s will shown after referendum is important for taking the further decisions. Spokesperson of Russian President Mr. Peskov even stated that Russian authorities don’t expect having serious economic and political troubles over the Crimean issue, and he also added that there are hopes that relationships between Russia and Western countries won’t be damaged over Ukraine, as both Russia and West are dependent on each other, according to the Presidential office.

Though despite these statements Russia remains on the same position refusing to de-escalate the situation and only deteriorating it. Massive and violent clashes erupted during the recent days in the cities of South-Eastern Ukraine (Kharkiv, Donetsk, Lugansk) were good planned provocations organized by pro-Russian forces in attempt to destabilize situation in the region and to justify Russian invasion for “protection” of citizens. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already published a statement indicating Russian readiness to interfere in Southern-Eastern Ukraine due to the alleged requests of people from regions.

As for Crimea, Russian government has promised the region huge financial support one day ago, but on Saturday the government declared that Russia will not send to Crimea the promised $ 1 billion of financial aid, but will help and consult on how to manage the region’s budget.

Massive rally to support Ukraine in Moscow
(Image: Euromaidan Facebook Community)
Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its turn has issued an official resolution declaring Russian military presence and aggression in Ukraine and demanding an immediate withdrawal, as Ukraine has the right to use all the possible measures in order to defend the country and its integrity and sovereignty.

Massive pro-Ukrainian rallies are being held in many Ukrainian cities including Southern and Eastern governorates. Thousands of people gather to express their position and to support unity of Ukraine, though the meetings in eastern Ukraine become more and more dangerous due to the numerous pro-Russian provocateurs attacking the marches. It’s worth mentioning also that a meeting against the upcoming referendum has been held on Saturday in Crimean Simferopol as well.

Huge anti-war and pro-Ukrainian rallies have been held on Saturday also in Russia, in many cities including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Samara, Yekaterinburg and others, with people supporting Ukraine, its integrity, independence and choice and protesting against the policies of Russian authorities regarding Ukraine and Crimea. Moscow has gathered an unprecedented rally attended by nearly 50-70 thousand people holding Ukrainian and Russian flags and chanting against war and in support of Ukraine. Eyewitnesses and journalists were impressed by this rally. Russian officials though have estimated the numbers as 2-3 thousand, despite the numerous photo- and video-evidences.

Western countries including EU, Great Britain and USA continue their pressure on Russia in order to convince Putin to de-escalate the situation in Crimea and to start negotiations, though the hopes for the diplomatic solution of crisis are fading. EU is preparing new, wider and harsher sanctions against Russian high officials, while USA has already imposed sanctions and is working on the additional measures. It’s worth mentioning also, that US Armed Forces along with NATO have declared earlier their support of Ukrainian case and stated the military option is also on the table, if Russia will continue its policies.

UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine and Crimean crisis
(Image: UN official website)
Ukrainian government in its turn has addressed international community including EU, UN, NATO to interfere and support Ukraine and to help to stop Russian aggression using all the possible political, diplomatic, economic and even military measures, so, NATO has official right to deploy its troops on the territory of Ukraine on the request of the government and Parliament.

Meanwhile, UN Security Council has held its seventh meeting over Ukrainian crisis, where it was expected to support UN Resolution on Ukraine and Crimea aimed to peacefully and democratically resolve the current crisis and support Ukraine. Though the Resolution was declined, as Russia has used its veto right and vetoed the resolution, becoming the only one country taking such a decision. Western diplomats and officials stated later that Russia is in total isolation, and its today’s veto distances it more from the international community and the possibility to resolve the conflict peacefully. US Representative in UN Security Council Samantha Power has stated that Russia has put itself with this decision actually beyond the international law and norms and rejected the possibility of peaceful resolving the crisis. Russia will not annex Crimea, as Crimea was and will remain Ukrainian territory, stated Mrs. Power, and Russian current policies will have serious consequences for the state. US Senator John McCain in his turn, has declared that Ukraine needs US military support due to an increasing threat of Russian military operation.