World News

Authorities in Kyiv and Crimea Battle over Planned Referendum

Ukraine's interim president has signed a decree canceling a planned referendum on Crimea joining Russia, but Crimean officials vow the vote will go ahead.

Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov signed the decree Friday, a day after Crimea's Moscow-backed legislature voted for the peninsula to become part of Russia and scheduled a referendum on the issue for March 16.

Mr. Turchynov on Thursday called the planned referendum a "farce" and accused the Russian military of organizing the vote. He said he and the Ukrainian parliament would protect the country's integrity and sovereignty. He also said that Ukraine's parliament would initiate proceeding to dissolve the Crimean parliament.

Ukraine's interim prime minister said Friday that "no one in the civilized world" will recognize the referendum's results.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk told reporters he wants to "warn separatists" and others he described as "traitors of the Ukrainian state" that their decisions are "unlawful" and "unconstitutional." U.S. and European leaders have also called the referendum illegal.

But Crimean officials fired back Friday, saying the vote will go forward.

"Kyiv will not be able to derail the referendum in the Crimea," said Mikhail Malyshev, chairman of the election commission overseeing the referendum on the peninsula. "It will be held, as scheduled, on March 16."

In Moscow, meanwhile, the speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament said Friday that Russian lawmakers will support Crimea's decision if the Ukrainian region decides in a referendum to join Russia, as tens of thousands of people turned out for a rally in the Russian capital to show solidarity with Crimea's pro-Russian authorities.

Ukraine and Russia have been locked in a tense standoff since Russian forces entered the Crimean peninsula a week ago.

The Reuters news agency Friday quoted an official in Ukraine's border guard service as saying that Russia now has 30,000 troops in Crimea, nearly double the figure previously given by Ukrainian authorities.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by phone Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Ukraine crisis, but the two leaders found little common ground.

The White House says Mr. Obama told Mr. Putin the presence of Russian forces in Crimea is a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty. The Kremlin says Mr. Putin denounced Ukraine's new government as "illegitimate" and said Russia cannot "ignore" calls for help from Ukraine's Russia-leaning east and south.

Earlier Thursday, Mr. Obama authorized sanctions, including visa restrictions, against those found to have violated Ukraine's territorial integrity. The EU also took measures against Russia, suspending talks on visas and a new economic agreement.

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday called the EU's position "extremely unconstructive," adding that Russia "will not accept the language of sanctions and threats" and promising retaliation if the EU imposes sanctions.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said Friday his government is "prepared to rebuild relations with Russia." But he said Russia must withdraw its troops, fulfill its agreements with Ukraine and stop supporting separatists in Crimea.

The White House says Mr. Obama, in his phone conversation with Mr. Putin, called for direct talks between Kyiv and Moscow that would be mediated by the international community. Mr. Obama called for all Russian forces to return to their bases and for international monitors to ensure the safety of Ukrainians, including ethnic Russians.

On Capitol Hill, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to provide loan guarantees of $1 billion to Ukraine. That measure now goes to the U.S. Senate. The European Union is prepared to extend a $15 billion bailout to Kyiv if Ukraine can reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Ukraine's crisis began when protests erupted in late November after then-President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an economic deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia. What began as peaceful protests quickly turned violent, leading to the deaths of more than 80 protesters and charges that the Yanukovych government ordered snipers to shoot protesters. Mr. Yanukovych fled Ukraine last month.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs