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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Crimea Moves To Join Russia As West Readies Sanctions

Crimea Moves To Join Russia As West Readies Sanctions

Simferopol (Ukraine) (AFP) – Crimea was due to formally apply to join Russia on Monday after voting to split from Ukraine, as Europe prepared to hit Moscow with a wave of sanctions in the worst East-West stand-off since the Cold War.

An overwhelming 96.6 percent of voters on the mostly Russian-speaking peninsula chose to secede from Ukraine, according to final results from Sunday’s referendum, which the Kremlin is accused of orchestrating.

Crimea’s regional assembly will meet early Monday to apply to merge with Russia, a process that could take months and is mired in uncertainty for a region that remains heavily dependent on the Ukraine mainland.

There was sharp international condemnation of the vote, which could see the most radical redrawing of the map of Europe since Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.

The European Union said the referendum was “illegal and illegitimate” and its outcome would not be recognized.

In Brussels on Monday, European foreign ministers are expected to unfurl sanctions including visa bans and asset freezes against leading figures in Moscow. However, members of the Russian government are not expected to be affected.

U.S. President Barack Obama phoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday and told him the vote “under duress of Russian military intervention, would never be recognized by the United States and the international community.”

Obama threatened “additional costs” for Moscow after the United States last week imposed visa bans targeting those blamed for threatening the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Crimea has emerged as the epicenter of a crisis that erupted when the splintered ex-Soviet nation’s Russian-leaning president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last months after months of bloody pro-EU demonstrations in Kiev.

The downfall of Yanukovych’s regime prompted Russia to move forces into Crimea where pro-Moscow officials declared independence and hurriedly organised the referendum.

Alcohol-fueled celebrations swept cities across the Black Sea peninsula, where thousands waved Russian flags and sang Soviet-era songs

“We’re free of the occupation!” Lucia Prokorovna, 60, said in Sevastopol, strategic home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet. “Ukraine was attached to Crimea like a sack of potatoes.”

Crimea’s self-declared premier Sergiy Aksyonov hailed the referendum as an “historic moment”.

“We’re going home. Crimea is going to Russia,” he told those gathered on Lenin Square.

However, not everybody in the peninsula, which Russia annexed in the late 18th century and which a Soviet leader transferred to Ukraine in 1954, was happy at the prospect of a return to Kremlin rule.

Crimea’s indigenous Muslim Tatar community — deported to Central Asia en masse by Stalin — largely boycotted the referendum.

“Of course we won’t vote,” said Dilyara Seitvelieva, the community’s representative in the historic Tatar town of Bakhchysaray.

Ukraine’s interim President Oleksandr Turchynov — who is not recognized by Russia and will be replaced after May 25 elections — said the results had been “pre-planned by the Kremlin as a formal justification to send in its troops”.

The choices facing voters were either to join Russia or go back to a 1992 constitution that effectively made Crimea an independent state within Ukraine.

Retaining the status quo and remaining an autonomous region within Ukraine was not an option.

What this means for the economically devastated region — which relies on the mainland for electricity, heating and water — as it waits to join Russia, is unclear.

“Crimea’s access to gas, electricity, water and food staples is in danger — and Russia will not be able to compensate,” said Penta institute analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.

Seemingly unmoved by the torrent of international condemnation, Putin told Obama that Sunday’s poll fell “completely in line with the norms of international law,” according to the Kremlin.

Moscow also said Putin intended to “respect” the outcome.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the vote a “mockery” of democracy while France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticized a referendum “that took place under the threat of Russian occupation forces.”

Japan’s top government spokesman Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the country “does not approve the result” of the referendum.

Russian press hailed the results of the vote, lauding Crimea for “returning” to the Russian fold.

Meanwhile tensions remained high in the mainly Russian-speaking southeast of Ukraine, where thousands rallied in the flashpoint industrial city of Donetsk and the town of Kharkiv to demand their own Crimea-style referendum.

Russian lawmakers are on Friday expected to debate legislation that would simplify the process under which the Kremlin can annex a part of another state.

AFP Photo/Viktor Drachev

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • Dominick Vila

    Our involvement on this issue should be limited to condemnation. Sanctions, and threats that we all know are meaningless, are more harmful to Western Europe and the USA than to Russia. Western Europe depends on Russian natural gas and oil to stay warm, cook, and function. Russia is a major importer of Western European goods and services and has a lot more to lose from an aggressive attitude towards the 800-pound gorilla in the region than Russia does.
    Let’s not forget that it wasn’t too long ago when we invaded two countries that were not a threat to us for geo-political, economic, and domestic reasons. Condemning Russia for the decision of ethnic, Russian Orthodox, citizens in Crimea to join the Russia Federation is ill advised. One thing is to condemn the alleged role that Russia may have played in the decision of the people of Crimea to return to old Mother Russia, seeking confrontation without domestic support and the willingness to sustain tremendous pain is reckless.

    • Billie

      America is war weary and we should not send troops to Crimea. I say that Russia is Europe’s problem. If troops are going, let it be Europe. We can’t be the world’s police force.

      • lemstoll

  • lemstoll

    When you do nothing against a tyrant, you get what you deserve…putting your head in the sand solves nothing….

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    As less than 60% of Crimea’s population are ethnic Russians, and as ethnic Ukranians, Crim Tatars, and other ethnicities are less than thrilled with the Russian system, a 96% approval means one of two things happened – either ballot stuffing, or voter intimidation of non-ethnic Russians, or both.

    • Mykola Potytorsky

      That is exactly what happened

    • lemstoll


    • sigrid28

      What Christian Caryl calls “the police state that currently holds sway in Russia” no doubt extends now to the Crimea and accounts for the miraculous 96% approval of Russian dominance produced in the unlawful referendum (see Caryl’s essay “Putin: During and After Sochi,” in “The New York Review of Books,” dated April 3, 2014). Caryl offers insight into the effects of a crackdown on dissidents under National Bolshevism, Putin style, which blends dictatorship with remnants of Stalinism. The Sochi Olympics were meant to put Russia’s best foot forward, but Caryl shows how the sentencing of dissent during the Olympics and the takeover of the Crimea during the Paralympics paint a far different picture:

      “Police corruption is one aspect of the current system that the average Russian citizen encounters on an everyday basis–to a point where it can be hard to distinguish police officials from the crooks they’re supposed to be pursuing. Vladimir Putin’s regime rests on the pretense of law and order (“dictatorship of the law” as Kremlin doublespeak calls it). . . .On February 12, . . . another court sentenced environmental activist Yevgeny Vitishko to three years in jail. His alleged crime: he had violated parole from a previous conviction by spray-painting a fence. It was not hard to see the real reason for the harsh verdict was simple retribution for Vitishko’s public criticisms of the ecological damage caused by Olympic construction projects. No Russian official would have made such a potentially controversial move without first ensuring that it was sanctioned from on high; that it such approval was given attests to Putin’s determination to stamp out even the slightest signs of dissent no matter what the potential cost. . . . If anyone still harbors any illusions aboout the nature of the police state that currently holds sway in Russia, the dispiriting reality behind the pomp and circumstance of the Winter Games should dispel them for good.” (p. 43)

      Even our cable news media has not scratched the surface when it comes to interpreting political affairs within what used to constitute the Soviet Union. I pay President Obama and Secretary Kerry are surrounding themselves with genuine experts on Russian affairs and ignoring most of the ridiculous assertions coming our over the airways and even within publications known for a higher degree of accuracy. While the rest of us might be so frustrated we conclude that the residents of Crimea who voted to return to Russian rule deserve to go to hell in a handbasket, the Obama administration and our allies in the EU do not have the luxury of ignoring what has happened to the Russian Federation and its neighbors under Putin.

    • Billie

      As I understand it there was only one way to vote on the ballot.

    • FredAppell

      An NPR journalist stationed in the Crimea was saying this morning that Russian bikers did seem to be using intimidation. When they were confronted with that accusation, they replied by saying the ends justify the means so they don’t care.

  • charleo1

    The politics of Crimea, and the Ukraine become much more straight forward when they are viewed in the context of the economics of the Ukraine, and the strategic, and geo-political interests of the Kremlin. And although the condemnation, and sanctions may be a political necessity. They continue to be drenched in hypocrisy, given ours and Europe’s recent military adventurism into the sovereign Countries of Afghanistan, and Iraq. One such invasion carried out on the thinnest of fabrications for a preemptive strike. Clearly motivated to obtain for ourselves, the huge oil reserves located within the poorly defended Nation of Iraq. As we may have made our peace within ourselves for that action. To the wider world, it remains ever what it was. U.S. troops on foreign soil, to secure the long term economic, and geo-political interests of the U.S. Now we’re feigning to be filled with horror, and shock at another power on the world stage securing their interests? And the ironies, and rich hypocrisy doesn’t end there. We are promising tough sanctions, and vowing not to recognize the legitimacy of the referendum in Crimea. While recognizing the newly seated, unelected, revolutionary government in Kiev, on the basis of upholding international law. It’s reminiscent of the Bush Administration demanding new Palestinian elections, then refusing to recognize the winner, because, “our guy,” didn’t win.

    • lemstoll

      History repeats itself…

      • charleo1

        If history doesn’t always repeat itself, the unlikelihood of
        a catastrophic nuclear exchange doing so for example. The same themes seem to occur again, and again. After all, same species, with the same hardwired proclivities, and foibles, keep competing over the same finite resources. Two troops of competing Apes, may ‘conquer,” the same fig tree hundreds of times. And like most of us, it will not dawn on any of them, they’re ancestors had been there before.

    • Sand_Cat

      Well said.

    • FredAppell

      As much as I hate to admit it, you’re right, we don’t have a realistic recourse for Putin’s actions. We’ve lost the moral high ground when President Obama decided to double down on our current war and execute involvement some civil wars and contemplate involvement in others. Unfortunately, I think this is merely just the first stop on Putin’s tour to reclaim lost territory. I wonder if we can revoke Russia’s permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council or at the very least, use it as leverage, if so, would Putin really care anyway?

      • charleo1

        Well Fred, it does seem to me, that scrap, the one between Ukraine, and Crimea, has been going on a long time. First, it’s ethic, with Crimean Russians desiring to be included in Russia proper. They questioned the vote. But the majority Russians there in Crimea, have a lot more in common with the Russians in Russia. Make sense? Now, the Ukraine is bigger, and what goes on there, from what I understand, the folks in Crimea feel is more or less pushed on them. In fact, before this referendum, they insisted on being called, The Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Then, Russia’s got a big naval base there. If I’m not wrong, one of only two warm water ports. So,it’s ethic, and strategic. A lot of bloody battles have been fought over that pretty little piece of real estate over the years. And it’s economic. Crimea with it’s tourist trade, and the Russian Fleet, plus other industries, it’s got a good little economy. Whereas it’s partner Ukraine, is an economic basket case. Needing 35 billion right away just to make it’s next loan payment. So, I’m just sayin’ if you were a Russian who lived in Crimea, how would you feel about your big brother next door being in that kind of financial shape? And all you had to do was just vote to leave all that debt behind? And speaking of debt. I heard John McCain mention as how we should send a contingent of troops in. Right! We can’t fix our falling down bridges, or help out our own after a disaster, or give poor kids a free lunch without bitching to high heaven about it. But, we should send troops to a place that last month, most Americans, didn’t know existed. Also, if we’re disarming the world of WMDs, there’s no argument about Russia having plenty of them. So, there’s really no use in us stomping our feet, and throwing too big of a fit about this. Why don’t we keep some powder dry for Iran? Where we do need Russia’s help. So, maybe pissing them off about Crimea, is not the best long term policy for keeping the mad ayatollah from getting the bomb? But, what do I know about it? Only what I can see from my lowly perch.

        • FredAppell

          I heard some of the various comments made by Crimean Russians in favor of the secession, economics was one of them. One person said she could earn better wages living under Russia’s system, I have to assume that many of her compatriots feel the same way. You’re right, I can’t blame them for that but I still don’t trust Putin. On the hand, the history lesson you gave me is valuable in more than one way.
          Our Government could learn a few things from lowly little you. Our country never learns from past mistakes, if we do, it usually comes at a snails pace.
          Our leaders see only what they want to in the world and as a result we ignore history’s lessons. We really don’t want this war, it has the potential of going global. Let’s hope we didn’t commit ourselves too deeply.

          • charleo1

            There was one statement reported. I can’t recall who they attributed it to, that said the Crimeans had voted away their freedom. And that could be true. But, as Americans we haven’t lived their history. We don’t have the same background, or culture. Or see ourselves in the same way. Even the term Communist doesn’t carry the same baggage to them. One overjoyed woman who looked to be in her 40s, said to the reporter there, that they, (meaning the Crimeans,) could all be Communist together again. I think sometimes we forget, everyone doesn’t feel the same way about democracy, as we do. Or have had the same experiences. And, many Russians have faired much worse after the Soviet breakup. They were excited at first. They had the trappings of a democracy. They got to vote. There was more freedom of speech, and if they had the money, there were more places they could travel. But, there was also chaos, and corruption. All the worst elements of Capitalism, minus any regulation. I think we have to see
            Putin as Soviet to the core, and judge him as such. They are with him on Crimea, and I’m not at all sure Putin wants the headache he’d be bringing in with the Ukraine. It’s no surprise that 7 out of 10 Americans want no part in any military action. Many of my pals here don’t agree with me on this. But, I think we should make a fuss for our European pals, and get back to business. And hope like heck, Putin is satisfied, and there’s no war in the Ukraine.

          • FredAppell

            Amazing post charleo. I am especially happy that you mentioned the differences of perception when you mentioned that some Russians aren’t so keen about the results of Capitalism and Democracy. I don’t think that as Americans, we could possibly begin to fully appreciate just why some people choose to live that way. Personally, I’m not opposed to such a system but I draw the line when it comes to tyrants. I don’t know if Putin is a tyrant or a benevolent Dictator (I do believe in a distinction between the two), only time will tell but the West’s propaganda is likely to continue to discredit Putin and the current situation.

          • charleo1

            Yes, You asked the questions on everyones mind. What will Putin do next? Will he annex the Ukraine? Is he setting himself up as a President for life? Is his plan to reestablish a Soviet style government? Only time will tell.

    • lemstoll

      The article is about Putin’s illegal land grab, not the USA and its forerays. Nothing to do with Obama. It is about the tyrant putin.

      • charleo1

        U.S. President Barack Obama phoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday and told him the vote “under duress of Russian military intervention, would never be recognized by the United States and the international community.” Obama threatened “additional costs” for Moscow after the United States last week imposed visa bans targeting those blamed for threatening the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine. The article was also about our official response to the events in Ukraine, and Crimea. And what I see as us applying a double standard. In fact, in a similar instance, in Egypt. Where a military coup removed the elected President Morsi, we seen no need to impose sanctions. And haven’t so far. However, if we failed to see in Bagdad what it looks like when troops are welcomed as liberators. We certainly seen the people of Crimea welcome in the Russians. The point of my comment was, setting our claims of American exceptionalism aside, we’re no Country at this point to be lecturing others about respecting sovereign borders.
        And aside from this being mostly none of our business.
        If we insist on going around the world playing the role
        of policeman. We’re going to need to act at a higher
        morality level ourselves, than was the case in invading Iraq. So yes, this very much has to do with us. We loose our military on false assertions, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens were killed, more than 2 million displaced from their homes. We manage to upset the balance of power in the region, and we want to scurry around the world, and have people respect us, like we just liberated Europe. My point is, there is a price for the kind of behavior we exhibited in Iraq. And I would hope we would recognize that, before we do it again.

  • Amanda Nevada

    Since free markets reward us for the usefulness of our actions, they are incompatible with merit-based systems of subjective judgement.