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Monday, March 17, 2014

Ukraine: Russian backed illegitimate “referendum” on Crimea has been held amid increasing Russian military presence

Referendum in Crimea
(Image: Telegraph)
Amid an increasing Russian military presence in Crimea, numerous cases of attacks and abductions of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar activists, journalists and reporters and presence of Russian citizens playing the role of pro-Russian Crimeans and despite the demands of Ukrainian government and international community to cancel illegitimate referendum Crimean puppet government has held the polls on Sunday, 16 March.

Its’ worth mentioning, that Ukrainian Parliament has officially dismissed Crimean separatist Parliament on Saturday, Crimean self-proclaimed government was declared to be illegitimate as well, and SBU and Prosecution General has opened criminal cases over the charges of seizure of power and separatist activities in Crimea. Though, Crimean authorities refuses to recognize the decision of Ukrainian Parliament and stated even that all the MPs who supported the decision about dismissal of Crimean Parliament would become persons non-grata.

Thus, the referendum was opened in Crimean cities and was held with numerous serious violations including continuous campaign for supporting Russian even during the day of voting, interference of the members of the commissions in voting process, absence of international observers, allowing to vote the persons with Russian citizenship etc. In addition to that referendum was held in presence of the foreign military and under actual occupation of Crimea. None of international observers including EU, OSCE, USA were presented on the referendum as this referendum is considered being illegitimate and contradicts Ukrainian Constitution and international law. None of the world’s countries except of Russia and Northern Korea recognize the results of this referendum.
Russian military remains in the streets of Crimean
cities on the day of referendum as well
(Image: The Guardian)

Despite the fact that there were numerous meetings against the referendum held in Crimea on the eve of it and extremely low voters turnout in the regions with the predominantly Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian population, Crimean officials have announced that the turnout was between 75 and 80%. It’s worth mentioning also, that even before the voting has started, Crimean pro-Russian government has made statements about imposing Russian currency, possibility of nationalization of Ukrainian companies and banks located in Crimea, sending the request to Russian Parliament to immediately start the procedures of annexing Crimea. In addition to that the results of the referendum were already announced, despite the fact that the polling stations have been closed several hours ago, and not all of the ballots were observed. Though, pro-Russian government has already declared that 95,7% of Crimeans have supported joining Russia.

Meanwhile international community declared that the results of this referendum won’t be recognized and called on Russian authorities to de-escalate the situation and to start the talks, as harsh sanctions could be imposed on Russia.

USA officials stated that this referendum and Russian policies in Crimea violate Ukrainian and international law and threaten the entire world and are destabilizing. USA called on the international community to immediately take the measures to stop escalation and to impose serious sanctions against Russia.

Pro-Russian activists and separatists are storming the office
of "Prosvita" in Kharkiv
(Image: Liga Net)
EU officials have also announced that the decisions on Russia and the measures to be taken will be taken right after the referendum, according to the statement of German Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier. EU will consider the issue of imposing wider and harsher sanctions against Russian authorities. In addition to that, leaders of G7 group have stated that Russia could be excluded from the group. Thus, Russia is in diplomatic and political isolation due its aggressive policies in Ukraine and risks to become in economic isolation as well, as the sanctions to be imposed include freezing of financial assets and suspension of all the cooperation with Russia.

US President Barak Obama has called Russian leader Vladimir Putin after the referendum and warned him that Russia will have serious consequences in case it won’t stop its policies and attempts to annex Ukrainian territories. The price will be high, claimed Mr. Obama. Putin in his turn has reportedly agreed on sending OSCE missions in Crimea and Ukraine and start to resolve the crisis. Putin continues to insist that the power in Ukraine is seized by the ultra-nationalist and fascist powers and Russia defends the rights of “Russians” and “Russian-speaking” people.

Pro-Russian separatists storming office of Kharkiv "Prosvita"
and burning books and historical documents
(Image: Liga Net)
Russian military troops though remain in Crimea and control the entire military and strategic object on the peninsula, blocking Ukrainian soldiers. Additional troops and military technique are being deployed in the region, and unprecedented numbers of troops were deployed along the border with Ukraine. Military activities of Russians are worrying, thus, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council has started forming the National Guard to be able to protect Ukrainian territories along with the regular army. More than 40 000 people have applied currently to the ranks of the National Guard, though Minister of Defense Igor Tenyukh declared that National Guard is expected to consist of nearly 15 000 people.

Meanwhile NATO and US Armed Forces have already expressed their support of Ukraine and claimed they are ready for military support as well. US Senator john McCain stated during the visit of Kyiv that USA should support Ukraine with the arms and troops due to an increasing Russian military aggression. NATO has already started joint military trainings close to the borders of Ukraine and is also patrolling the air along the border.

Ukrainian border service in their turn has closed Ukrainian-Russian border, according to the statement of Arsen Avakov, Ukrainian Minister of Interior. This step was made to prevent arriving of Russian extremists and provocateurs in Ukraine.

US President Barak Obama has called
on Putin to de-escalate the conflict
Meanwhile massive clashes erupted on Sunday in Eastern Ukrainian cities including Donetsk, Kharkiv, Lugansk and others, as pro-Russian marches have turned violent. Authorities of these cities and activists as well have warned of the preparation of massive provocations, assaults and maybe even terrorist attacks in these cities in order to justify Russian military invasion in the region, thus there were calls for people to avoid the marches and not to provoke the criminals and extremists. Though several pro-Ukrainian rallies were attacked by supporters of Russia. Separatists with the flags of Russia and Russian neo-Nazi groups have stormed administrative buildings, regional offices and SBU headquarters in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkiv. In Donetsk armed provocateurs with Russian flags have also seized office of Donetsk governor Sergiy Taruta. In Kharkiv these criminals have been attacking offices of pro-Ukrainian organizations, including scientific organization “Prosvita”. “Prosvita” office was brutally attacked, while hundreds of books and historical documents were taken outside and burnt.

Similar assaults and provocations were allegedly planned in Dnipropetrivsk and Zaporizhzhya, but SBU and police have stopped and arrested the groups of provocateurs with weapons. In Dnipropetrivsk the arrested persons have been holding Russian passports.

Thus, the situation remains tense, as clashes organized by pro-Russian forces and often Russian citizens continue, Crimean remains occupied by Russian forces and declaring of the results of referendum which is totally illegal.