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.
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    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.
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    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: John from: Melbourne
    March 10, 2014 6:35 AM
    the USA has broken every international law in the last few years, NATO bombed Serbia , so it can annexe Kosovo to alabanians.
    NATO bombed Iraq, Libya, involved in uprisings of Egypt etc and now in Syria.

    by: Vusi from: SA
    March 10, 2014 5:25 AM
    So CNN,SKY News and BBC W are publishing news that are only in favour of US and EU. I watched RT and clearly the information that RT has is also in the hands CNN,Sky News and BBC W.None of the Western media is acknowledging the fact that Russia had military personnel in Crimea for years. So how do you call that Aggression?

    by: freedom from: eart
    March 10, 2014 4:29 AM
    What right does a country or a group of countries have at telling another what to do, Russia is its own country and has its own laws. They are not going to set there and be bullied by the Empire of America, and why should they, they have no need to fear the United States, the united states is going to learn that when they mess with the fire they will get burned.

    by: JJ Joseph from: Toronto
    March 10, 2014 4:07 AM
    Why is America always on the side of the Sunni Muslims, as in their position on Crimea? The Ukrainian Muslims (Tatars) hate the Russians and want Ukraine to join an alliance with Turkey & Syria. But it seems lately that the USA is always intervening on behalf of the Muslims. Does it make sense for America to always be allies with Sunni Muslims, especially in conflicts in the Middle East? Wouldn't it be better for us to be allies with Russia and help Russia with its struggles with Islamic terrorists?
    In Response

    by: Regula from: USA
    March 11, 2014 3:55 AM
    That is because of Saudi Arabia: the US installed a Shiite government in Iraq, but the Saudis hate the Shiites because of the rising importance of Iran and the setback that would be for the Saudis. This is why Syria was destabilized - for the Saudis and the Israelis, to separate Syria from Hezbollah and Iran. It just didn't work. Assad fought back. Now the US apparently wants to use the Tatars to cause trouble in Crimea so the US can then play savior of the Muslim minority. But the Crimean government was very fair to the Tatars and offered assistance for Tatars still to relocate to Crimea. It also offered them other benefits of political say in the Crimean government. The referendum was decided upon in completely legal and democratic ways and there is nothing wrong with it. The tatars may hate the Russians, but they have been living together with Russians for a long time! Besides, Russia is tolerant to Muslims and any other minority. There are in Russia very many minorities who live along their own ways of life.

    The west is demonizing Russia for its own purpose: the destabilization of Ukraine had as its goal to deprive Russia of its base and fleet. Now that Russia defends its interests, the west is outraged. Ironic. The west engages in criminal destabilization of a democratic country and then accuses Russia of aggression. Unfortunately, such crooked ways are typical for US foreign policy.

    I agree with your post: a much more gainful strategy would have been for the US to accept Russia and engage in common trade and the fight against Sunni Muslim terrorists.
    In Response

    by: yunus from: Accra
    March 10, 2014 1:14 PM
    the US supported shia majority in opposition against the sunni rulers in iraq under saddam. they are supporting israel against the sunni majority palestinians. thy are supporting secularists aginst the sunni majority stte of egypt. so you betterrevise your notes.


    by: Abhishek from: India
    March 10, 2014 2:23 AM
    Crimea has majority Russian supporter, this clearly shows murky agreement signed by Boris Yeltsin and the West in 1994. It also exposes how west can bribe or Arm twist the heads of state to get International agreements signed. People of Crimea have the right to join the Russian federation as majority of them are Russians.
    In Response

    by: Tom from: Earth
    March 12, 2014 12:38 AM
    "People of Crimea have the right to join the Russian federation..." What about the people of Kashmir? Your reasoning is just as faulty as the reasoning of the national sickurity (sic) advisor SS Menon who more or less said the same thing!
    In Response

    by: Assad from: NY
    March 10, 2014 4:26 PM
    "People of Crimea have the right to join the Russian federation as majority of them are Russians."

    How about Kashmir ??

    by: yo mamma from: yo momma
    March 10, 2014 2:01 AM
    There will be a war

    by: yo mamma from: yo momma
    March 10, 2014 2:00 AM
    Nerds

    by: Dean S. Bird
    March 10, 2014 1:30 AM
    Unmarked trucks and unmarked uniforms - all new and complete-and worn by troops with their faces covered against the chill while bare faced children play in the streets around them - obviously not Russian - perhaps they come from the other side of the moon- or perhaps not.
    Elections in the Soviet Union were often won with over 90% of the vote. I wonder if Putin would dare to pick so high a number for the referendum? Perhaps he will chose a number more like 86% in an attempt to appear more....? An old Chicago politician is supposed to have once said "It's not who you vote for that counts, it who counts the votes." Ah well.....politicos and their dreams of empire......

    by: GH1618 from: USA
    March 10, 2014 12:47 AM
    Declining to recognize the acquisition of Crimea by Russia means nothing. No state would be so foolish as to try to restore the status quo ante by military force.

    by: GH1618
    March 10, 2014 12:19 AM
    What does it mean not to recognize the Russian acquisition of Crimea? Nothing at all of any importance.
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