News / Europe

    US Warns Russia Over Crimea Referendum

    • A member of the Russian Song and Dance Ensemble of the Black Sea Fleet performs during a pro-Russian rally in Simferopol, Crimea, March 9, 2014.
    • Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, march outside an Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol, March 9, 2014. 
    • Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky (R) and Russian opposition activist Ksenia Sobchak visit Independence Square, cradle of the uprising against ousted President Viktor Yanukovuch, in Kyiv, March 9, 2014.
    • Pro-Ukrainian supporters join hands as they take part in a rally in Simferopol, Crimea, March 9, 2014.
    • Members of the Russian Song and Dance Ensemble of the Black Sea Fleet perform during a pro-Russian rally in Simferopol, Crimea, March 9, 2014.
    • Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, stand guard outside an entry to a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol, March 9, 2014. 
    • Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament, attends a pro-Russian rally in Simferopol, Crimea, March 9, 2014.
    • A woman holds a portrait of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko while the crowd solemnly commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of its greatest poet takes to mark his 200th birthday near a monument of him in central Kyiv, March 9, 2014. 
    • Pro-Russian supporters hold banners which read, "For the future of Crimea in Russia" during a rally in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 9, 2014. 
    • Ukrainian lawmaker and chairman of the Ukrainian party Udar (Punch), former WBC heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, right, speaks with locals in Donetsk, Ukraine, March 9, 2014. 
    • Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky (L) speaks with a member of the Maidan self-defense battalion as former Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko (C) looks on near a barricade in Kyiv, March 8, 2014.
    VOA News
    The White House on Sunday warned Russia that it will come under increased international pressure if it presses ahead with a referendum to annex Crimea. 

    Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken said on CNN that pressure on Russia will only go up if the referendum goes forward on March 16.

    “First, if there is an annexation of Crimea, a referendum that moves Crimea from Ukraine to Russia, we won't recognize it, nor will most of the world,” Blinken said.
     
    “Second, the pressure that we've already exerted in coordination with our partners and allies will go up. The president made it very clear in announcing our sanctions, as did the Europeans the other day, that this is the first step and we've put in place a very flexible and very tough mechanism to increase the pressure, to increase the sanctions,” he said. 

    Crimean offcials say they will go ahead with a vote next Sunday to join the Russian Federation, but international diplomatic efforts are intensifying against the move. 

    On Sunday German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Both leaders agreed that Ukraine's territorial integrity needed to be protected at all costs.  A statement from the German government said a referendum planned for March 16 on Crimea joining Russia was “extremely dubious” and “illegal."

    Turks of Crimean Tatar origin waves Crimean flags and hold a banner that reads " Crimea is the homeland of Crimean Tatars " as they demonstrate to protest against Russia's military intervention in Crimea, Ukraine, in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, March 2, 2014.Turks of Crimean Tatar origin waves Crimean flags and hold a banner that reads " Crimea is the homeland of Crimean Tatars " as they demonstrate to protest against Russia's military intervention in Crimea, Ukraine, in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, March 2, 2014.
    x
    Turks of Crimean Tatar origin waves Crimean flags and hold a banner that reads " Crimea is the homeland of Crimean Tatars " as they demonstrate to protest against Russia's military intervention in Crimea, Ukraine, in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, March 2, 2014.
    Turks of Crimean Tatar origin waves Crimean flags and hold a banner that reads " Crimea is the homeland of Crimean Tatars " as they demonstrate to protest against Russia's military intervention in Crimea, Ukraine, in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, March 2, 2014.
    Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told VOA the annexation will "isolate Russia from the rest of the world for years to come, maybe even decades to come." He continued, "even the Chinese are not supporting Russia in this act - nobody thinks this act is legitimate."  

    ​The Reuters news agency reported that Merkel and Erdogan said efforts to form an “international contact group” and a committee to investigate violent incidents of recent weeks were important.
     
    According to Reuters, Erdogan said Turkey was prepared to help the international contact group given his country's close relationships with Ukraine and Russia, as well as its special relationship and contact with the Crimean Tatars.

    Also on Sunday Russian President Vladimr Putin Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron and said the steps taken by authorities in Ukraine's Crimea region were in accordance with international law.

    Obama to meet with Ukraine's PM

    President Obama will meet with Ukrainian Interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk at the White House on Wednesday to discuss efforts to resolve the crisis.
     
    Obama said last week that any referendum on Crimea would violate international law and the Ukrainian constitution. He also announced sanctions including travel bans and the freezing of assets of individuals responsible for Russia's military intervention in Crimea. Putin was not among the individuals.

    Ukraine says it will not provoke Russia

    Ukraine's acting defense minister says Kyiv has no plans to send armed forces to Crimea. The Interfax news agency quoted acting Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh as saying on Sunday that Ukrainian troops are performing training exercises, but they are strictly limited, involving only troop movements from one base to another. 

    “No movements, no departures for Crimea by the armed forces are foreseen. They are doing their routine work which the armed have always had,” he said.  Tenyukh was responding to media reports about Ukrainian troop movements after Russian forces took control of Crimea. 

    Ukraine's leaders vowed Sunday not to give up "a single centimeter" of territory to Russia as thousands rallied at rival pro- and anti-Moscow demonstrations, and tensions remained high over the deepening crisis in Crimea.

    Ukraine's acting head of government Yatsenyuk led commemorations in the capital, Kyiv, for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ukraine's most revered poet and national hero, Taras Shevchenko.

    He told a crowd that the country's "fathers and grandfathers have spilled their blood for this land. And we won't budge a single centimeter."

    Meanwhile, rallies honoring Shevchenko were held in Crimea's key cities of Simferopol and Sevastopol, the eastern city of Donetsk and other areas. The rallies were against the breakup of Ukraine. Pro-Russia protesters held counter-demonstrations in cities throughout Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Scattered clashes were reported between the two sides.

    One of the speakers at a rally in Kyiv, until recently imprisoned Russian tycoon and Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, held back tears as he implored the crowd to believe that not all Russians support their country's recent actions in Ukraine.


     
    People shout slogans as they stand next to a statue of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, during a rally against the breakup of the country in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Sunday, March 9, 2014.People shout slogans as they stand next to a statue of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, during a rally against the breakup of the country in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Sunday, March 9, 2014.
    x
    People shout slogans as they stand next to a statue of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, during a rally against the breakup of the country in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Sunday, March 9, 2014.
    People shout slogans as they stand next to a statue of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, during a rally against the breakup of the country in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Sunday, March 9, 2014.
    Russia moves against border post

    Russian forces tightened their grip on Crimea on Sunday.  In the latest armed action, Russians took over a Ukrainian border post on the western edge of Crimea, trapping about 30 personnel inside.

    A Ukrainian military spokesman, Oleh Slobodyan, said Russian forces now control 11 border guard posts across Crimea.

    Russia denies it has troops on the peninsula beyond those regularly stationed with its Sevastopol-based Black Sea fleet. Ukraine's much smaller navy is also based in the Crimean port city.

    Witnesses say although the soldiers have no insignia identifying them, they are clearly Russian.

    Foreign observers have failed to get into Crimea to get a first-hand look at the situation and were forced to turn back Saturday after pro-Kremlin gunmen fired warning shots.

    Unease in Crimea continues after Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, signed a decree Friday canceling a March 16 referendum on Crimea joining Russia. Local authorities in Crimea say the ballot will go forward.

    Russian lawmakers have vowed to support Crimea's decision if the Ukrainian region decides to join Russia. On Sunday, a Russian lawmaker said the Kremlin had set aside $1.1 billion to rebuild Crimea's industrial infrastructure if the disputed region votes to join Russia.

    Russian military vehicles enter base near Simferopol:

    Military Convoy Moves Through Crimeai
    X
    March 09, 2014 12:15 AM
    Russia appears to be strengthening its military presence in Crimea. As VOA's Kent Klein reports, a convoy of military vehicles identified as Russian entered a base near Simferopol on Saturday.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 3
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    by: Vlad from: Armenia
    March 13, 2014 12:47 PM
    What happens to the Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea after the referendum? They are getting no backup because the referendum is not politically recognized. That's fine, but what happens when the Russian soldier comes and says "get out"? They fight, and probably die? How are the Kiev authorities sleeping at night abandoning their soldiers?

    by: JJ Joseph from: Toronto
    March 11, 2014 6:18 PM
    How can there be a free Ukraine with the right-wing fascists arming themselves with looted weapons and moving in to all the government offices in Ukraine? These are primitive Jew-haters and nazis and they want to cause total chaos so they can move against their enemies throughout Ukraine. God help the normal Ukrainian people when the Jew-haters and Muslims get a grip on a helpless Ukraine. The only hope is that the democratic Russian-speaking people will be able to save themselves from the mass exterminations being plotted by the Muslims and their nazi brethren.

    by: Tatiana from: Crimea
    March 11, 2014 7:41 AM
    Those who came to power in Kiev as a result of armed revolution have force only in central and western Ukraine. Southeast regions and the Crimea will never recognize the fascist power. And thousands of people protesting in Kharkov , Donetsk, Odessa confirm this. Russia closer to us historically , we talk in Russian, we think in Russian, we don't need Western values . There is no doubt that the inhabitants of Crimea will vote to secede from the Ukraine and join Russia. So now the authorities in Kiev threw all their forces to disrupt the referendum. The fascists of the "right sector " headed by the Deputy Security Council Secretary Dmytro Yarosh capture arsenals of Ukrainian army and preparing armed provocations against Crimea .

    The Central Election Commission in Kiev blocked voter database. Unknown people under the guise of police spoil Crimean passports not to let them vote on March 16. Foreign leaders were quick to declare a referendum illegitimate, and the results - false . At the same time no one pays attention to the fact that the majority of the Crimean population speak in Russian and at least 3 million Russians were killed in Sevastopol during several wars. The referendum will be held in the Crimea . We will choose to join Russia. We will not allow illegal Kiev government order that we can do and what we can't. Moreover, we will not allow the United States from overseas to advise us what is better for Crimea . It is our right to self-determination and we won't give this right to someone else.

    by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
    March 11, 2014 4:52 AM
    The referendum is illegal and has no value. the people of Ukraine and Crimea which is part of Ukraine, should decide their own future. Secondly there are Russian troops occupying Ukraine, how can there be a free and fair election? thirdly both Russian that are living in Ukraine and the Ukrainians should go to the ballot box freely. and not under the barrier of Russia guns. We are calling on Russia to de escalate, and withdraw to Russia immediately. There is no need for Mr. Putin mess in the 21ist century. The US, UK, and EU must hold Russia accountable for her action. The people of Ukraine needs to decide their faith. and not Russia telling them what to do. Russia aggressiveness must stop. Who does Mr. Putin think he is to defied the world superpower? Russia ain't nothing. Russia is a piece of bread for the US. Your Russian people better advice Mr. Putin to do the right thing, or else your will face consequences from the US. And I can reassured your, your don't want to go there with the US. God Bless America
    In Response

    by: Vlad from: Serbia
    March 16, 2014 6:33 PM
    No dear, you are wrong - A new power is rising!
    USA + EU cut Kosovo from Serbia bombing us 3 months! The similar thing do Russia, but without bombs! So they are gentlemen!
    So your blessed Amerika together with your god will just watch, and watch, and watch... Remember, Faith is poison! Long live Atheism!

    by: Golubella from: Melbourne
    March 11, 2014 3:02 AM
    Russian Art of War by Vladimir Putin will be essential reading for generations of army officers. Americans liquidated 700,000 in Iraq to rob oil. Russians have fired few shots above heads to regain territory given away by an Ukrainian when he was the soviet leader. The real loser is NATO. Western European leaders will now find NATO is not a paper Tiger, just a paper Cat. Meow, Meow...

    by: Garry Moore from: Ottawa, Canada
    March 10, 2014 9:28 PM
    Action Plan

    Given that the one thing that Putin can not tolerate is to lose face on the world stage, the G7 leaders should meet on an urgent basis to discuss the Crimean situation and develop a coordinated action plan

    At the end of the meeting the G7 should announce to the world that they will not attend the G8 meeting in Sochi, Russian Federation

    Furthermore, the G7 leaders should announce that Putin is no longer a member and ALL future meetings will revert back to the G7 nations without Russia

    Putin will lose face in his own country and internationally

    Moore, Garry R - Solutions Inc
    In Response

    by: Regula from: USA
    March 11, 2014 3:25 AM
    Not really. The G8 isn't such an important group anymore because it leaves out too many important nations.

    As to the western standpoint on Russia "occupying" Crimea - it is ridiculous: the US destabilized Ukraine in the most atrocious ways using rightwing extremists thugs for the purpose of ousting Russia from its base and fleet in the Black Sea. It didn't work because Russia acted to defend their interests and their compatriots which make up 65% of Crimea. And now the west is outraged at Russia - it would be better for the west to be outraged at its own actions. The EU/US have neither a right to govern the world nor do they have a right to destabilize a country just for the US's narrow interests and because Ulkraine's EU association would be lucrative for the western European countries.

    What is equally mindboggling is how the western public fell for the strategic false information in the western press.

    In reality the US used the rightwing extremist thugs to shoot their own protesters and several police to make it look like Yanukovich gave the order to hasten his ouster when in reality Yatsenyuk gave the order. This was a coup by the opposition of abhorrent cruelty and Yatsenyuk has absolutely no legitimacy.

    Meanwhile a democratic referendum decided on by the government of Crimea is not going to be accepted by the US who reproached Yanukovich of not being democratic enough and claiming that people protest to want democracy. Exactly who is going to take the US seriously anymore?

    Unfortunately, the EU acts like the US's lapdog.

    by: Morgs from: SA
    March 10, 2014 5:04 PM
    Mr Putin is just another Adolf Hitler, he thinks he can slowly rule the world...
    And he will fail coz he can't defeat everyone! If you're a Russian and you want to feel Russian, then go to Russia simple...!
    In Response

    by: Morgs from: SA
    March 11, 2014 4:05 AM
    Try something different and don't look at who's on whose side, do you think grabbing land from another country in this century will end any well? If Russia were to excel in their move many more countries might as well do the same!
    Reason I compared him to Hitler is that, that fool (Hitler) too had interest in land outta his own control and drastically failed. Is this the direction Mr Putin is heading? If you love your history, you will see that this is how the whole thing started, invasions, invasions, invasions and finally WAR....
    "If he wants the peace of his people then he can welcome them into his land as Russian citizens!"
    In Response

    by: Regula from: USA
    March 11, 2014 3:30 AM
    But who destabilized Ukraine? Not Putin. Just because the US wanted to oust Russia from its base and fleet in the Black Sea doesn't mean Russia doesn't have a right to defend its interests.

    Contrary to what most of the commenters seem to believe, it is the US who wants to control the entire world. It is of course obvious that destabilization of Ukraine was intended as preliminary step to destabilize Russia.

    The western public had been completely deluded by western false information.

    by: Peter from: USA
    March 10, 2014 1:47 PM
    What would Sun Tzu (The Art of War) do with the Crimea situation?

    I think one tactical course of action Sun Tzu would consider given our advanced Military concerning Crimea would be to advise the Ukrainian’s to stop fighting and leave for the north. Then instruct NATO/US to drop from our highest flying military aircraft, continuous layers of GPS guided military grade sink packages covering the entire area of Crimea. The design is simple, the high speed packages are fired, and then stop to heli-hover at a certain altitude, spinning spray of the most rancid smell your nose has every smelt over all of Crimea. The compound has a clinging agent added to it so once it hits, it’s on you, and stays for months! The firing of packages from our Military aircraft hit the area over and over until the Russian’s leave or run, as the case may be.

    As for their military assets, the Russian’s will be so preoccupied with getting away, our air defenses can then destroy their assets on their way out. It's not a deadly chemical weapon. No one dies, no one gets hurt and if the packages are shot down they are designed to explode in 360 degrees, with an explosive back up system that has the same air spray effectiveness. Let the Russian’s think they have annexed Crimea on the 16th; let them think they have all the power! Let them think we are weak and let them parade their Military.

    Sun Tzu said, “Make your attack like a boulder smashing against an egg.”

    Or, we can continue playing this multilingual game of scrabble, and watch the violence turn to war.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    March 11, 2014 3:40 AM
    Neither the EU nor NATO nor the US has any ground for any attack of any sort, lethal or not on the peaceful people of Crimea. They have a democratic right to self-determination. That is internationally guaranteed. Instead it is time for the US/EU/NATO to come to terms with the reality that the US cannot go destabilize one country after another for criminal foreign policy interests. In this case the information that the opposition gave the order to fire snipers at the protesters to falsely incriminate Yanukovich is confirmed in a conversation between foreign minister Paet and Ashton. It is obvious that the opposition didn't act without US approval, since Nuland decided who should be the new government.

    As to the EU - it first has to take its own agreements seriously if it wants to be taken seriously. Certainly it gave a very clear proof that it doesn't respect democratic rules and laws. Any president in any country can be destabilized using the most violent elements of society which are usually somewhat isolated and disagree most with any sitting government, to destabilize that country. And surely, the US won't hesitate to destabilize the EU if that suits its plans.

    Russia acted entirely within its international rights and contracts signed with Ukraine back in 1997. The US knows of course full well that any US/EU attack on Crimea would be a war crime.

    by: 4Peace
    March 10, 2014 1:02 PM
    If you want Peace Prepare For WAR

    by: Richard Comaish from: Beckenham
    March 10, 2014 12:22 PM
    How did the non-liberator of Guantanamo Bay get into the position of condemning a referendum before it has happened?
    In Response

    by: Regula from: USA
    March 11, 2014 3:43 AM
    This is how democracy works for the US: it applies only if it suits the US. A referendum is a democratic way for the people to decide which way to go in face of the fact that they cannot recognize the illegal and criminal government in Kiev. It is obvious that the US/EU will have to accept that referendum - or there is no democracy.
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