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Saturday, December 3, 2016

By Sergei L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Ukraine will never recognize the results of the weekend referendum that favored Crimea’s secession and it will never accept the annexation of the peninsula by Russia, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said Tuesday.

“Our land will never be torn away,” Turchynov said Tuesday, according to the UNIAN news agency. “The Ukrainian people and the entire civilized world will never recognize the annexation of Ukrainian land.”

Turchynov’s comments came as Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties with Crimea’s Moscow-backed leaders appropriating the region and its vital naval port of Sevastopol less than two days after its voters backed secession in the widely criticized referendum. Though Putin’s move requires ratification by the Russian parliament and the Constitutional Court, those steps are seen as formalities.

Also Tuesday, a Ukrainian military spokesman said Russian snipers had opened fire in the center of Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, killing one Ukrainian army serviceman and injuring at least two others. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry later ordered its servicemen to fire back if attacked, UNIAN reported.

Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency reported that one member of the local self-defense forces was killed and two wounded by gunshots in Simferopol.

Many who oppose Russia’s incursion into the region, including the United States and others in the West, criticized the developments as more evidence of a dangerous Russian power move and questioned the results of the overwhelmingly pro-Russia referendum.

“The fact remains that Crimea is not part of Russia, but it is part of Ukraine occupied by Russia the way the Baltics, part of Poland and western Ukraine were occupied by the Soviet Union back in the 1940s,” political scientist Vadim Karasyov said in an interview.

Karasyov said the jubilation in the Kremlin after the referendum may be the celebration of a Pyrrhic victory for Moscow. Russia may face tougher challenges than the sanctions imposed thus far on some Russian and Ukrainian officials by the United States and European Union and the threat of more penalties if Moscow does not back down in Crimea.

“I am sure the United States and Western Europe will consolidate their efforts and find a way to make a speedy transition from the meaningless sanctions to a number of more effective measures to engage Russia in an economic Cold War which will be a test of whether Putin is bluffing or whether Russia is really reasserting itself as an arrogant Soviet-style superpower,” said Karasyov, director of the Institute of Global Strategies, a Kiev-based think tank.

Russia controlled the peninsula until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred authority to Ukraine in 1954 in what was then a shift between two republics of the Soviet Union. Ukraine gained its independence in 1991.

Some analysts said referendum results indicating 80 percent voter turnout and 90 percent in favor of Crimea’s secession from Ukraine appeared bogus.